River Foam Likely Natural, Not Pollution

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    By Diane Aikele

    The thick foam cresting the Green River could be simply that – foam – but it could, more ominously, be illegal chemicals dumped into the water.

    The river, its waters enjoyed by recreational users, appears not to be polluted, said Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality.

    Early this spring, reports came into the Division of Water Quality about a foamy substance floating on the top of the river, Baker said. Samples were taken and came back inconclusive, leading some to believe the water is polluted. But the foam is most likely due to natural causes.

    “We weren”t able to do our lab analysis until many days after the event occurred, and we were not on site immediately to draw proper samples,” Baker said.

    A likely cause of the foam is the changing of the seasons. Decaying organic material lies hidden under the snow all winter, and when the first snow melts, the material is mixed into the rivers, Baker said. There is organic material in the water, flowing over the gullies, that gives off fatty acids. Those fatty acids make what looks like a bubble bath.

    Speculations as to other causes of the foam include oil and gas activity in the area around Green River.

    “It is possible that there [are] mud-drillings from oil and gas activities in the area surrounding Green River,” said Donna Kemp Spangler of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “We want to find the source of the foam and make sure that it is not harmful to any people or fish.”

    With spring finally here and more activity in both the Green and Provo Rivers, students are aware of the chance of pollution in the water.

    “We have amazingly beautiful rivers here in Utah,” said Taylor Goggins, a senior at BYU and an avid fly fisherman. “It would be a shame for these waters to be polluted and kill the wildlife.”

    The Utah Division of Water Quality continues to be on the lookout for any suspicious material or pollutants in the Green River. This phenomenon has the possibility to occur in many other rivers and streams.

    “We had an unusually high runoff this spring, and that could possibly result in a high abundance of this foaming,” Baker said.

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