June 25, 2007
In rocky, snowy splendor, Utah's Wasatch Mountains rise as high as 12,000 feet above sea level, barely a mile east of the Utah County Courthouse in Provo, UT. Completed in 1926, and designed by Joseph Nelson of Provo, the neoclassic courthouse sits in the morning shadow of the great range. Yet even here, on this venerable building, in this seemingly pristine environment, the heavy hand of acid rain has left its destructive mark. People might think that acid rain is an unlikely culprit in Provo, which has a population of 105,000 and is located far from eastern industries, West Coast smog and vast cities that count their citizens in the millions. But unfortunately, the city was plagued by a Utah County steel mill -- now shut down and dismantled -- that had pumped pollution into the mountain air for decades, according to John Lambert of Abstract Masonry Restoration in Salt Lake City, UT, and Boston, MA. That pollution reacted with water and oxygen in the atmosphere to create mild solutions of sulphuric and nitric acids which fell -- and fall -- on Provo as acid rain.