Study to examine pollutants in Great Salt Lake wetlands area of Box Elder County

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A three-year $1.4 million study will consider the effects of human activity on a Great Salt Lake wetlands area that is a haven for migratory birds.The Salt Lake Tribune says money for the study was recently approved by the Utah Water Quality Board.Scientists will study the 25-square-mile Willard Spur area to understand what happens to the lake when pollutants – particularly fertilizers and treated sewage – enter the wetlands. Water from the lake is not used for drinking water, so it is not evaluated for contaminants like other waterways.”This is really needed,” said Merritt Frey, who represents the environmental community on the board.The study was prompted in part by objections from Utah Waterfowl Association, the Utah Air Boat Association and other conservation groups to a $30 million wastewater treatment plant in the Perry-Willard area.Critics said regulators allowed the plant to begin operations before they understood how discharges from the plant would affect pollution in the bay.With the new study, water-quality issues would be explored by a science advisory panel and a steering committee expected to include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, which has already researched water movement and water quality in the Great Salt Lake.”This is a huge win for the lake,” said Rob Dubuc, an attorney for Western Resource Advocates. He represented the conservation groups and praised water-quality officials for working to drafting a discharge permit that is satisfactory to all the stakeholders.Public comment on the terms of the wastewater discharge permit, which includes the pollution study and addresses both past concerns and future operations will be heard by the Utah Department of Water Quality at a meeting in January.

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