MORGAN -- A retired Bureau of Reclamation employee is warning Morgan County officials of potentially dangerously high algae levels in the East Canyon Reservoir.
"I've been on the state's case for years about this, sometimes to the demise of my job," said Jerry Miller, who worked for the bureau for 35 years. Miller said he has spent countless hours of his own time mapping algae levels on the reservoir.
"No one believes these problems are as bad as they are. These algae are toxic," Miller said. He said toxicity levels in East Canyon may have increased to the point that the algae killed livestock and dogs downstream in Morgan County in a three-day incident in the 1990s. "But no one would have identified this as a source of the problem."
Miller prepared a study of the problem, worth $200,000, he said, but the state was not worried enough to send it on to the Environmental Protection Agency or even the local water quality committee. He offered a copy to county officials.
"This report identifies a potential concern of phosphorus levels entering East Canyon Reservoir," Morgan Councilman Ned Mecham said. However, the report offers data that those levels are on the decline since the 1990s.
"These reductions have been primarily attributed to the considerable expense at the waste water treatment facilities," Mecham said. "His concerns are with future growth. Can the phosphorus levels continue to decrease?"
The report included data from the Water Research Laboratory at Utah State University, East Canyon Water Reclamation Facility, students from Brigham Young University, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Snyderville Basin Waste Water Treatment Plant, Weber River Basin Water District, U.S. Geological Survey, Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and the East Canyon Water Quality Committee.
Although nearby Park City may be partially to blame for the situation, Miller said the city has taken great strides to keep East Canyon clean.
"East Canyon is a potential future drinking-water source for Park City Municipal," said Kathy Lundborg, Park City Municipal water manager. "If the algae were present, and if (Park City) was looking at an importation project, it would have concerns of algae due to increased costs for treating the water. The city would not want to invest in a project that was not environmentally sustainable."
Miller urged Morgan County officials to closely monitor algae levels in the reservoir, even offering his services in the effort.
"This county needs to invest in some monitoring," he said.
Mecham is concerned with Miller's findings.
"Water quality should be everyone's concern," Mecham said. "If you live in an area that has a public water supply, your water is being monitored and treated ... In rural counties such as Morgan, the water used by families is from private wells, making everyone concerned about the quality of our water.
"The water quality from our streams in Morgan County depends on the water quality leaving Summit County. The water quality in Weber County depends on the water quality leaving Morgan County," he said.
"The levels of phosphorous are slowly declining, but still must be continually monitored. The necessary programs need to be in place. We as the county council would welcome any report or information regarding the quality of water that flows through our county."