DEQ Outcomes

Department of Environmental Quality

Department Leadership:

Amanda Smith, Executive Director
Brad Johnson, Deputy Director

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is to safeguard human health and quality of life by protecting and enhancing the environment.

Performance Reports

(Click report below; view to right)
  • Overview of Utah's Environment
  • Particulate Air Pollution
  • Approved Drinking Water Systems
  • Leaking Underground Storage Tanks
  • Residential Indoor Radon
  • Chemical Warfare Agent Destruction
  • Water Quality of Utah's Streams
  • Expand all reports on one (1)

More Department Performance:

Emerging Issues and Strategies for DEQ
External Link Learn more at their website
External Link Utah’s Report on the Environment (2010)

Overview of Utah's Environment

Utah’s air quality has improved dramatically in the last 25 years, however significant work remains to ensure clean and healthy air for all our citizens. Stricter regulations for motor vehicles and industry, as well as other emission reduction programs, have reduced smog and improved visibility. In the early 1980s, the health standards for four of the six criteria pollutants identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were violated in one or more Utah counties. Remarkably, improvement has come after significant population growth. Tougher new EPA rules on fine particle pollution and ozone, however, will make it difficult for several areas of the State to meet the standards.

The amount of toxic chemical releases into the environment has steadily declined in recent years. This is the result of both regulatory and voluntary efforts. Prior to the 1970s, disposal of various wastes lacked regulatory oversight and guidance. Consequently, some wastes were discarded without regard for their impact to human health and the environment. That situation has improved with the establishment of solid and hazardous waste regulations designed to protect the environment and public health. Through voluntary clean-up programs, thousands of acres of commercial and residential properties have been cleaned and put back into beneficial use.

Utah has made significant strides in water quality. Passage of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act and the implementation of wastewater discharge permits have reduced lake and stream pollution. Our drinking water systems have vastly improved their compliance with drinking water requirements. The Safe Drinking Water Act mandates that EPA, states and water systems protect consumers from unsafe drinking water. It has been more than two decades since a water borne disease outbreak has been reported in Utah.

Particulate Air Pollution

Data Source: DEQ

Why this is important:

PM 2.5 is airborne particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller. It is associated with cardio-respiratory distress in the general population at elevated levels, and exposure to even extremely low ambient concentrations may result in severe responses in the most sensitive portion of the population (i.e., the very young, the very old, and those with existing cardio-pulmonary conditions). The US Environmental Protection Agency recently lowered the standard for PM 2.5 from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air. That standard is the 3-year average of the 98th percentile of the daily concentrations. The above graph shows that much of northern Utah is violating the standard. Areas violating a standard are subject to increased federal standards and oversight and transportation funding can be cut off if standards are not met in a timely manner.

What we're doing about it:

The Division of Air Quality began work in 2004 to analyze the chemistry of our pollution, identify potential sources that may be contributing to the violations of the standard, develop computer models to explain the relationship between the local meteorology and pollutant emissions in forming PM 2.5, and identify control strategies that will need to be implemented to ensure all areas of the state attain the standard. A formal plan to solve the problems must be submitted to EPA by 2012; however the state is pursuing early actions to reduce pollution as soon as possible.

Population Served by Approved Drinking Water Systems

Data Source: DEQ

Why this is important:

A water system’s ratings is a measure of the utility’s ability to provide a safe and reliable supply of water. Water that is “safe” to drink meets all health based standards for quality. The rating is also an indication that waterís sources are protected from contamination, that the systemís facilities are adequate to provide sufficient water at adequate pressures to meet water customer needs, that system operators have been properly certified, that backflow protection measures are in place to prevent contaminated water from mixing with drinking water, and that periodic inspections are successfully passed.

What we're doing about it:

The Division of Drinking Water follows recognized standards for to ensure not only a safe drinking water supply but also that the source waters and delivery system are adequate to meet fire suppression, outside irrigation and various household needs. The Division also administers a grant and loan fund which provides Federal and State monies to entities to construct needed physical facilities.

Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

Data Source: DEQ

Why this is important:

Leaks from tanks that store hazardous materials, primarily gasoline, in underground tanks can contaminate water resources and create vapors that can adversely affect public health. The Underground Storage Tank Program was developed in 1988 to minimize the frequency and impact of leaks from these underground tanks. Open leaking sites in the graph represent the number of sites each year that DEQ was working on with tank owners to clean up. New leaking sites in the graph are the number of new leaking sites that are reported to DEQ each year.

What we're doing about it:

The number of open leaking sites is declining over time and DEQ is continuing to work with the tank owners to ensure that contamination is cleaned up and the risks to public health associated with this contamination is eliminated. The number of new leaking sites reported each year is also generally declining over time. Recent increases are a result of changes in the program and are probably temporary. DEQ is working to further reduce the number of new leaking tanks through our inspections and compliance assistance programs.

Residential Indoor Radon

Data Source: DEQ

Why this is important:

Radon gas is six times more deadly than second hand smoke killing an estimated 21,000 people through lung cancer yearly in the United States. As a naturally occurring radioactive gas released from rocks and soil, radon seeps into residences and can accumulate to dangerous levels. Measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/l), surveys by the Division of Radiation Control indicate that approximately 30% of Utah homes are above the EPA's action level of 4.0 pCi/L. Because so much time is spent at home, residents should consider getting their homes tested for radon as a preventative measure.

What we're doing about it:

The Division of Radiation Control attacks the radon problem in a variety of ways designed to increase awareness, testing, and mitigation of radon problems. The DRC increases public awareness & home testing through the following channels:

  • Newborn Baby Program: DRC provides parents of newborn children with a coupon for a free radon test
  • Continuing Education Courses: DRC offers radon classes to realtors and home builders
  • Partnerships: DRC has partnered with local health departments, hospitals, Home Building Associations, Cancer Survivors Against Radon, Utah Safety Council, and other community entities to raise radon awareness
  • Community Events: DRC participates in health fairs, home shows, Earth Day, Radon Poster Contests, etc.

Mustard Chemical Warfare Agent - Destruction Progress

Data Source: EG&G

Why this is important:

The United States has an aging stockpile of chemical warfare agent. About 45 % of that stockpile has been stored in Utah at the Deseret Chemical Depot since 1942. The Army began destroying the Utah stockpile in 1996 in accordance with a hazardous waste treatment permit and with oversight by the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste (DSHW). Of the three types of agent stockpiled in Utah , GB, VX, and mustard, only the mustard stockpile remains. The DSHW and the Army are working through numerous issues to ensure these remaining mustard munitions, many of which are leaking, are destroyed in a manner protective of human health and the environment, and as expeditiously as possible. Destruction of these munitions reduces the risk posed by continued storage.

What we're doing about it:

To sustain the rate of destruction of the mustard munitions, the DSHW has developed processes to improve communication with the Army. Modifications to the permit are processed quickly because information is shared in a manner that meets the hazardous waste program requirements and that include the appropriate amount of detailed information. Frequent site inspections provide incentive for the Army to operate in compliance with the permit.

Water Quality of Utah's Streams

Data Source: DEQ

Why this is important:

Water in our arid state is precious. It is the life blood of our communities; it preserves habitat for wildlife; it supports our agricultural industry; it drives our economy; and it is central to many of our recreational activities. In other words water sustains our overall quality of life. It is critical that the quality of our water be sufficiently good to protect all of the above beneficial uses.

What we're doing about it:

The Division of Water Quality uses many tools to help preserve the beneficial uses of our waters, including: issuing permits to regulate the amount of pollutants that industry and municipalities discharge; educating the populace; performing inspections; funding pollution control activities; taking enforcement actions; and conducting studies. The division continually monitors our waters to determine the effectiveness of these programs in protecting our water quality. Every two years a report is made to Congress on the quality of our waters. The graph depicts whether our streams and rivers are fully supporting their uses, i.e., there is statistically little pollution, or if they do not support their uses, i.e., clearly higher than desired pollution levels exist for one or more parameters.

Even in the face of unparalleled growth and extended periods of drought, nearly three-fourths of Utah 's rivers and streams completely support their beneficial uses and show improvement over the last 20 years.