Utah Lake expert criticizes new nutrient standard

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  • Dr. M. Provo, UT
    Nov. 16, 2017 3:12 p.m.

    JMHO: We can not "fix" the lake because it is not broken! Lake water quality is goo d, given that it is naturally a shallow, turbid, eutrophic, basin-bottom lake in a semi-arid area. Natural turbidity comes from chemical precipitation of dissolved salts. The algae, including the occasional cyanobacteria blooms are natural and not worse. Fortunately, the types in Utah Lake seldom generate much toxins. We want to buy time to even more conclusively prove that nutrient control will not improve the water quality in the lake.

    Podicus: The murky waters are largely natural as explained to JMHO. I would love to have the original vegetation back (lots of cattails and bullrushes), and we should continue to try to control the Phragmites that has taken over. However, such vegetation would do little to change the open lake turbidity since the murkiness is generated in place by the ongoing natural chemical precipitation.

    Nonames: Either a lack of scientific understanding, or else just an ideological plunge got us to this point. EPA isn't the pusher on this one. A questionable program forcing partial nut. removal now is wasting some $200 million.+-, up to 2 billion after 2020.

  • Dr. M. Provo, UT
    Nov. 16, 2017 2:32 p.m.

    I was on a accreditation trip and missed this article until now--although late I want to make some comments for the record:
    Cityboy: The catch is that there is no way to reduce phos. enough to make it limiting to the algae growth due to its scarcity. Two factors are at play: (1) The chemistry of the lake is such that it results in phos. in the 40-60 ug/l range regardless of how much comes into the lake (the balance precipitates to the sediments). The amt currently going into the lake is some 4400 ug/l, over 80% of which is coming from atmos. deposition (rain,snow,dust). There is absolutely no feasible way to reduce this more than about 10%, and even if you could control to lower levels, the phos at the bottom would simply come back into solution to the 40-60 ug/l levels. (2) The amt of phos. is actually a moot point since, overall, the natural turbidity is the actual limiting factor to algae growth. The lake would grow even larger amts of algae than it does if the water was clearer. pls request my white paper at MerrittLB in gmail if you are interested in more info.

  • cityboy Farmington, UT
    Sept. 21, 2017 3:20 p.m.

    Merritt believes any effort to reduce phosphorous loadings to the lake is worthless. He should take notes from any EMT worth his/her salt. All first responders know that the guiding principle in triaging accident victims is to first stop the bleeding and then start the breathing. The first step in controlling harmful algal blooms in Utah Lake is to significantly reduce the food source that the cyanobacteria are feeding from. Will the initial phosphorous reductions be enough? Doubtful. But its a first step and will buy time for the necessary science to be performed to understand what the recipe for success will be and at what cost.

    Likely phosphorous inputs will need to be reduced more and nitrogen, too. These reductions combined with management of lake levels with an eye to actually protecting water quality, removing the bottom-feeding carp, re-establishing aquatic plants, implementing sediment/ag/stormwater control measures, and perhaps some dredging to remove the 150 years of crap that we’ve put into the lake MAY allow the lake to heal itself. Doing nothing will only result in us getting more of what we’ve already experienced the last few years -- only in spades.

  • JMHO Kanab, UT
    Sept. 21, 2017 10:51 a.m.

    Do these people even hear themselves talk.
    They want to spend money to research how not to clean up the lake? No they want to buy time and not fix the lake. After all....time is money.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    Sept. 21, 2017 8:02 a.m.

    The simple fact is that we cannot keep building subdivision after subdivision pumping sewage waste water into a finite lake and not expect disaster. But, that would really rub all the builders, developers and realtors in the Legislature the wrong way.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    Sept. 20, 2017 6:58 p.m.

    Merrit's basic argument is that we don't need to worry about pumping pollutants into the lake because the murky waters, not the phosphorus levels, are the limiting factor on algae growth.

    The murky waters are largely due to a lack of normal vegetation on the lake bottom, which in turn is partially caused by the invasive carp.

    It's not good enough to figure we can play human-caused environmental disasters off of each other to try to balance each other out. We need to clean up our act and be responsible, even if that means having to spend more money on waste treatment rather than flushing minimally treated poop into the lake.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Sept. 20, 2017 6:21 p.m.

    So we are going to spend millions of dollars not to improve the water quality at the lake, but rather to prove to the feds we take the problem seriously as we continue to study how to actually improve the water?

    And people wonder why some of us tire of federal over reach. We want the lake to be clean. We are willing to spend the money to do to that.

    But why are we wasting money knowing full well it isn't the answer? Why do the feds require or even permit this?

    This isn't science. This is the worst of politically driven bureaucratic politics.