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Toxic Algae Spreads In Utah; A Sign Of The Times

Tony Frates
Flickr Creative Commons
This algal bloom on a channel of the Jordan River happened in 2015, but the river is once again has a warning because of toxic algae. It's a trend in Utah -- and pretty much everywhere else.

Toxic algae in nine Utah water bodies has triggered warnings and a reservoir closure.

State environmental officials added four new names last week to a growing list of water bodies with harmful algal blooms. People who use Echo, Rockport, Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs will now find advisories.

“Across the country, and in Utah, algal blooms -- harmful algal blooms, in particular -- are on the rise,” says Erica Gaddis, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality.

One reason, says Gaddis, is a hotter climate. Remember: this summer was the warmest on record in Salt Lake City.

Another factor is that more Utahns generate more runoff, which dumps excess nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways.

“Awareness is huge,” she says. “We should all be paying attention to how we use fertilizer on our lawns and in our garden.”

Gaddis says sewer districts are phasing in new controls to remove pollutants. That means customers are likely to be seeing higher sewer bills.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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