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Provo City Concerned About Possible New Standards For Utah Lake

Ben Holcomb, Utah Department of Environmental Quality

In wake of Utah Lake’s toxic algal bloom, Provo city officials are wary of jumping on a solution. Last week the Provo City Council and Mayor issued a joint resolution urging the state Department of Environmental Quality not to impose new water quality standards on Utah Lake.

Provo Mayor John Curtis says he’s worried about spending millions of dollars on upgrading water treatment plants while problems associated with algal blooms persist in Utah Lake.

“We want to be clear that we want the clean water as much as anybody,” Curtis says. “We’re not opposed to higher standards, but we want to make sure that they’re based on good scientific evidence and that we’ve got all of the facts in front of us.”

But that’s just what the state is working on.  Walt Baker directs the Utah Division of Water Quality. He says they’re in the midst of a large working plan to improve Utah Lake’s water. They’ve set aside more than a year to study the runoff and wastewater that ends up in the lake, which Baker says is just one of the many elements that contribute to the algal bloom problem.

“We need a holistic approach to managing this problem,” he says. “It is not just as simple as, ‘Cut off the food source, ergo, no more algal blooms.’ It’s more complicated than that.”

Baker says he does agree with Provo City officials that more research needs to be done before deciding how to tackle the algae problem.

“We can’t make decisions based on no science or bad science. Science work takes time. It takes a lot of resources and investment dollars, it takes commitment,” he says.

Baker says he’ll likely meet with the Provo City Council to discuss the issue next month. Utah Lake was listed as an impaired body of water on this year’s assessment of the state’s waterways. The Division of Water Quality is taking public comment on that report through September 8.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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