Davis County leaders mull future of diesel-engine testing requirements

Saturday , April 15, 2017 - 5:00 AM

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

FARMINGTON — A pair of proposals have been put forward in Davis County that would do away with the more rigorous environmental testing required of certain diesel vehicles.

A county leader, though, expects officials will retain the current program, which requires use of dynamometers in testing light- and medium-duty diesel vehicles built in 2007 and before.

“We really are dedicated to clean air, and I think the (emissions testing) program, especially for diesel, is an important component of that,” said James Smith, chairman of the Board of Davis County Commissioners. Despite the proposals that would eliminate dynamometer testing, he doesn’t foresee “anything that’s going to make us change” the current testing regimen.

Davis County commissioners met with county health and environmental officials on April 3 to discuss the future of the county’s contract with Worldwide Environmental Products Inc., the firm that has handled the dynamometer testing here since 2013. The contract — which doesn’t apply to testing of gas-fueled vehicles — expires at the end of 2017, according to Brian Hatch, director of the Davis County Health Department.

Now leaders have to decide whether they extend the agreement or go in another direction.

RELATED: New year, new diesel rule in Weber County

Hatch, like Smith, expressed support for the existing system and said he will proceed as if the county will maintain the current scheme. Air pollution is a major concern along the Wasatch Front, and Hatch said the Davis County diesel-testing program “has had a major impact” in improving air quality.

“We have a program we think is air-quality friendly,” Hatch said. Most Utah counties don’t have diesel-testing programs, and Davis County’s is among the toughest in the handful of counties that do have them.

Dynamometers permit testing of diesel exhaust to make sure the contaminants within don’t exceed permissible limits. The other means of testing — used on newer vehicles here as well as older ones — are inspections of exhaustion-control devices in autos and use of on-board diagnostic systems to gauge emission levels.

The two other proposals put forward to replace Davis County’s arrangement with Worldwide would do away with dynamometer testing, relying only on visual inspections and on-board diagnostic testing.

Factoring in his support of dynamometer testing, Smith said, is the quantity of diesel vehicles built in 2007 or before in Davis County, around 45 percent of the total. Older vehicles typically don’t have on-board diagnostic systems. What’s more, according to Hatch, visual testing sometimes doesn’t detect faulty emission systems in older cars that dynamometer testing can catch.

Weber and Salt Lake counties also require testing of diesel vehicles, but not with dynamometers, making the Davis County diesel-testing scheme one of the most rigorous in the state. Cache County also has a diesel testing program. State legislation that would have required such testing in all Utah counties, House Bill 134, failed earlier this year.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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