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Study seeks causes for air pollution in Great Salt Lake area

Jul 5, 2023, 6:30 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — A new study is taking a close look at air pollution around the Wasatch Front, and chemicals found in The Great Salt Lake.

Researchers want to find out if those chemicals are getting into the air naturally or coming from the US Magnesium plant to the west.

The University of Utah, Utah State University, and Brigham Young University have teamed with Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality to take readings all over the Great Salt Lake.

chemical readings at Great Salt Lake

Associate Professor Randy Martin and his students take readings at Antelope Island. (KSL TV)

Randy Martin is taking readings at Antelope Island to hone in on how the chemicals affect our air – specifically chlorines and bromines that ultimately contribute to about a quarter of our air pollution.

Martin, an associate professor at USU said, “In particular, are they coming from one local source, the Great Salt Lake, or the US Magnesium facility down in the southwest corner.”

A previous study suggested US Magnesium might be putting the majority of those two chemicals into our air but a lot of them can also come from the Great Salt Lake’s drying lakebeds.

Air monitors

The team sets up air monitors in the area around Antelope Island. (KSL TV)

Martin said it’s important to find or confirm the cause in order to find solutions.

“If the main source is US Magnesium, we’re going to have to know how much they would need to reduce in order to see benefits along the Wasatch Front,” Martin said.

He said understanding the cause will help us get a bigger bang for the buck in using technology to clear our air.

“I think in Northern Utah, we are going to have some pollution problems for the next several years until we can really get a handle on what we can do to help out,” he said.

During both the winter and current summer phases of this study for this first year, Martin said US Magnesium has been running at a lower production rate.

The study will repeat next year when production is higher and the results will be compared.

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Study seeks causes for air pollution in Great Salt Lake area