Pollution threatens Canyon Watershed


    By Christopher Seifert

    Members of the Park City community and the Utah Division of Water Quality are working to preserve the water supply in the East Canyon Watershed.

    The water is threatened for a number of reasons, including nutrient discharge from the East Canyon Watershed Treatment Plant and from lawn fertilizers. Excessive water runoff due to unpaved roads and agriculture also contributes to the problem.

    “A lot of the problems are coming from development,” said Suzanne Hill, water quality specialist for Bio-West, an environmental consulting firm working with the Utah Division of Water Quality to monitor pollutants in the East Canyon Watershed.

    The presence of excess nutrients in the water is a major problem faced by the water supply.

    “It”s listed as an impaired water body because it does not meet state standards for dissolved oxygen and phosphorous levels,” said Melissa Stamp, a watershed scientist for Bio-West.

    The state standard for phosphorous levels in a river or a stream is .05 milligrams per liter.

    “The phosphorous levels are not higher at all places and at all times, but the medians are higher at stations above the East Canyon Reservoir,” Stamp said.

    The increased levels of phosphorous and dissolved oxygen alter the biological balance in the watershed.

    “The additional nutrients stimulate excessive biological growth such as algae and macrophytes,” said John Whitehead, watershed coordinator for the Weber System with the Division of Water Quality. “The stream is just choked with macrophytes.”

    The increased levels of algae and macrophites create something known as an “oxygen sag” at night. The lower oxygen levels put stress on the fish population in the watershed.

    While East Canyon Creek once supported healthy populations of both trout and Kokanee salmon, the salmon have died out entirely and the trout numbers are dwindling.

    The Utah Division of Water Quality completed a study in 2000 and offered suggestions for salvaging the water supply.

    Those suggestions have led to the implementation of some unique solutions to the problem.

    For example, the East Canyon Watershed Treatment Plant has become the first treatment plant in the state of Utah to remove chemical phosphorous from the water.

    “The reason we”re focusing on phosphorous is it”s controllable,” Whitehead said.

    Nitrogen is another abundant nutrient found, but it is not as easy to treat, Whitehead said.

    “This is an expensive high-level treatment,” he said, referring to the phosphorous removal.

    Hill suggests several ways local residents can help maintain water quality.

    “Don”t wash your car in the driveway, recycle, keep you car tuned up and don”t water your driveway and sidewalks,” she said. “By washing your car in the driveway you wash pollutants into the gutters and right into the stream.”

    Hill said it is also important not to dump paints or household chemicals into storm drains.

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