PROVO, Utah — Several state legislators visited Utah Lake near Provo this week to get a tour and find out why state money should be used to help clean up a body of water that has been plagued by potentially toxic algal blooms.
The Wasatch Front Water Quality Council invited members from two legislative committees — the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee and the Legislative Water Development Council — to the lake on Wednesday. The council is comprised of publicly owned wastewater treatment plants.
An advisory sent out in late June advising people against swimming in areas of the lake where algal blooms are present is still in effect. While boating on the lake is still considered safe, businesses dependent on lake traffic have lost hundreds of thousands dollar last summer, officials said during their presentation to lawmakers.
Algal blooms thrive in the lake because of its levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, researchers said. The amount of algae blooms on the lake has increased in recent years, possibly due to climate change which has made it hotter in Utah during the summer, said Theron Miller, the council’s research director
One possible solution is controlling the nutrients at the lake, but early research does not show whether that method will be effective in preventing algal blooms.
There is some existing funding for water quality research at the lake, but the money will not be enough to fully understand what makes Utah Lake prone to algal blooms, said Tom Holstrom, the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility’s general manager.
“As an ecologist, I want to help the lake. That is my No. 1 agenda,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, if we need to build a plant and Utah Lake will improve, we’re on board.”