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Draper Journal

City collaborates with Canyons District, cops and civic leaders for clean-air campaign

Jan 30, 2020 11:51AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Representative Dr. Suzanne Harrison is co-chair of a bipartisan clean-air effort for Utah. (Photo courtesy Draper City)

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Studies show that, in Utah, 53% of harmful particulates in the air are generated by mobile sources and that idling your car for two minutes produces the same emissions as driving one mile. Studies also show that schools at drop-off and pick-up times are one of several “hot spots” where pollution is concentrated because of the number of cars and buses running their engines in a small space. 

The Salt Lake County Health Department indicated that children are especially at risk because their immune systems are still developing. The Environmental Protection Agency states that pollution can result in air toxins that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. 

After adopting the Draper City Clean Air Initiative, Idle Free Restriction in June, the city collaborated with community partners at recent events in an effort to educate the public on the negative air quality impacts of idling and to encourage people to be idle-free. 

With a theme of “Dough-Not Idle,” school district representatives, Draper police officers, city representatives and city council members passed out doughnuts at pick-up time at three area schools on Dec. 12.   

“Besides educating students, we feel we have a responsibility for their health,” said Kirsten Stewart, associate director of communications for Canyons School District. Stewart passed out doughnuts and chatted with parents who were waiting to pick up their children. 

Parents were pleasantly surprised with the delivery of free doughnuts as they waited in their cars. “It’s surprising but very nice and very proactive,” said St. John the Baptist parent Nancy Velazquez. “I think it’s great. I think you’re seeing fewer people idling as we wait,” Tamara Dolan said. 

A week-long campaign to raise awareness of the small things that each of us can do to lessen air pollution launched on Jan. 13. This time, all Draper public, charter and private schools participated in some way with the launch hosted by Willow Springs Elementary.

The January week was chosen specifically because air quality is often especially bad with inversions in the depth of winter. But it can also be a problem in warm weather. “Pollution is a year-long problem, in the winter with smog in the valley and in the summer with high ozone,” Stewart said.

Canyons Superintendent Dr. James Briscoe called the initiative “critical.” Representative Dr. Suzanne Harrison, a mother of three, spoke of a low-sulfur, clean-air fuel and said she’s working on a sales-tax exemption for electric cars and hybrids. “Driving a cleaner vehicle is a huge step in the right direction,” she said. Representative Jeff Stenquist indicated that homes will be a bigger pollutant than cars in the future, so in addition to encouraging people to replace older vehicles with cleaner cars, he’s also encouraging newer appliances in homes. 

Mayor Troy Walker thanked all involved and gave special accolades to Erika Doty, parent advocate and mother of two who suffer from asthma. Doty started the first idle-free week several years ago at her children’s school, St. John the Baptist, and reached out to then-candidate Tasha Lowery, the city council and mayor to encourage healthier behaviors. Doty has continued to collaborate with city leaders on finding solutions to help alleviate air pollution. 

The University of Utah’s “Nerdmobile,” a small van equipped with laboratory equipment to collect air quality data, was renamed “Claire” at the Idle Free Week launch. Claire will assess the air quality at Willow Springs and other locations before, during and after the anti-idling campaign to determine if a change in idling behavior is observed.