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Air quality concern leads state to encourage reporting violators

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Right now air quality in Utah is big concern. On Friday places across the Wasatch Front are being told to take mandatory action, and for some that means reporting your neighbors who aren't following the rules.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Right now air quality in Utah is big concern. On Friday places across the Wasatch Front are being told to take mandatory action, and for some that means reporting your neighbors who aren't following the rules.

The air is so bad out that for several parts of the state, no burning is allowed. That's why health officials are encouraging people if you see one of your neighbors using their chimney on days like Friday, call a hotline and report it.

Take a look outside and it's easy to see Utah has a winter pollution problem.

"Whether it's wood smoke, whether it's driving our cars, everything is trapped in the valley," said Bethany Hyatt, Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Bethany Hyatt with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality said the air is so dirty Friday it's considered a mandatory air action day in Salt Lake, Cache and Davis Counties.

"On mandatory action days, burning is not allowed," said Hyatt.

That means no wood or coal fireplaces or stoves. The ban is no joke.

People like Rick Ombach are sent out to catch violators who could face up to $300 fines. His list comes from tips of those fed up of their neighbors supposedly breaking the ban.

Some may not think one chimney would contribute that much to the problem. But the more pollutants go up in the air; one air quality expert said it can take a real toll on people's health.

"It can lead to all sorts of respiratory issues from asthma to emphysema, to things like autism, and heart attacks," said Dr. Randy Martin, Assoc. Professor, Utah State University.

So whether you call in a tip on your rule breaking neighbors, or carpool to work, state officials said it all helps.

"Every little thing that people can do, taking mass transit, car pooling, trip chaining, combining trips together, those sorts of things really do make a big difference," said Hyatt.

When you start looking at the air, you can see how quickly that little bit adds up.

There's a couple of hotlines you can call to report people violating a burn ban.

Utah Dept of Environmental Quality Hotline 801-536-4000
Or you can report to the department online – click here

Salt Lake County Hotline 385-468-8888

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