Bruce Anderson’s family business has relied on the Great Salt Lake for more than 50 years.
Now called Mineral Resources International, the company harvests minerals from the lake that are sold as supplements in about 50 countries, Anderson said. In addition to its role as a business, the organization’s mission is to “improve global well-being through mineral nutrition,” according to the company’s website.
Anderson, company president, is the fifth son of seven Anderson children and became the company’s leader when he was only 22, by a family vote, he said.
He started working with the company when he was only 4 years old.
“I remember putting seals over the caps of bottles, just being with my parents and ... helping them out,” Anderson said in an interview. “It really was a family enterprise.” All of his siblings have been involved in the work at some point, he said.
The family business began with Anderson’s parents, Hartley and Gaye Anderson. Hartley was inspired to start the enterprise after reading a column published in the Standard-Examiner in 1968. It was written by syndicated columnist George W. Crane, who was a trained psychologist and physician, according to his obituary in The New York Times.
“A lot of his articles were about psychology, but once in a while (Crane) would throw in information that he was a real believer in sea water (for health),” Bruce Anderson said. “He had a pretty broad perspective — being a psychologist and a medical doctor.”
The column made such an impression on Hartley that he convinced Gaye to go all in and start a business. About a year after reading it, they had launched a business, with a simple first product — “basically filtered Great Salt Lake water,” Anderson said.
Health food stores would sell the product, and customers would use it in place of table salt to salt their foods, since it contains a range of minerals instead of just one.
At first, his mom was skeptical, Anderson said. So were the family’s neighbors.
“We grew up in Hooper. People in Hooper thought my dad was a little crazy at the time,” Anderson said. “It was kind of an odd thing, but as we grew the business, it became a lot less odd.”
Now that the supplement industry is booming, attitudes have changed to a degree.
“We’ve come a long ways, and we’ve still got a long ways to go,” Anderson said.
When the company began in 1969, zinc wasn’t yet recognized as an essential mineral for human health, Anderson said, and there are minerals today that scientists believe are important for humans, but there’s not yet enough research for the mineral to be recognized as essential by the Food and Drug Administration.
However, the company does not produce medicine or medical treatments, Anderson said, just supplements.
“The science is still coming along,” Anderson said, “but the science has come a very long way. And (the mineral business) has moved ... from the quirky to mainstream.’
Anderson has been with the family business for his entire career, with the exception of the fours years he spent as a Weber County commissioner in the late 1990s. His term ended at the beginning of 2000.
Because of his family’s longstanding reliance on the lake, Anderson has deep concerns about a landfill being developed at Promontory Point, southern tip of the Promontory Peninsula, which juts out into the lake from the northern side. The landfill is close to the shores of Great Salt Lake.
Anderson is concerned in part because of his experience as county commissioner. During his service, the commission was looking to move a waste transfer station, and after studying the issue with the help of consultants, they ruled out any location near a body of water.
Being near a body of water was considered a “fatal flaw,” he said, that automatically ruled out a potential location due to the possibility of contaminating the water source.
“That was just the transfer station,” he said, not even a landfill.
His company’s mineral ponds are northwest of Promontory Point, at the furthest north end of that arm of the lake, he said.
“Nature has a way of changing plans considerably,” Anderson said. “We’re concerned about the unknown that is not adequately planned for, and that’s why I believe ... that site should have been considered a fatal flaw to begin with — because of the inability to plan for and mitigate the huge risk in the event of a significant natural disaster.”
An earthquake is his biggest concern, he said, because it could rip the liners that keep contaminants from leaching into the ground and water.
The landfill is run by Promontory Point Resources, part of a larger company based in California called Allos Environmental. While the landfill has not yet accepted any waste, Promontory Point Resources is on the hunt for its first customers.
In the late summer of 2019, it was looking like Weber County would fill that role. The county potentially could save $600,000 by switching waste haulers, according to earlier reporting by the Standard-Examiner.
Weber County, though, has a contract for service with Republic Services that goes until August 2021, though Promontory Point is still interested in the county’s business.
Anderson isn’t the only person with concerns — environmental groups, particularly Friends of the Great Salt Lake, which Anderson has worked with on the issue, do not like the location of the landfill and think the state evaluation of the site has not been rigorous enough.
In 2019, Weber County Commissioner Scott Jenkins responded to these concerns, telling the Standard-Examiner that the landfill had gone through the process of evaluation required by the state and it was an approved facility.
The commission’s primary responsibility to the county, he said, was to get the best price for services.
Promontory Point Resources said in 2018 it intended to “develop the track record of a safe and complaint operation” and educate the community about the landfill. It decried “misinformation” about the landfill.
Though Mineral Resources International has mineral harvesting pond operations located in Box Elder County, the company’s offices are in Weber County — and for the family’s business, the location of the landfill is an economic issue, Anderson said.
“It’s certainly within (the commission’s) purview to make a decision based on economics, as well as businesses within the county and how those businesses may be affected,” Anderson said, referring to the commission’s decision on doing business with the landfill.
In addition to the threat of contamination, the location of the landfill is a perceptions problem for a company selling health supplements drawn from a water source that is close to a potential or operating landfill.
What’s more, countries could block the importation of products like those produced by Mineral Resources International because the harvesting ponds are near a landfill, Anderson said — and his family’s company is just one representative of a larger industry based around the saline lake.
For, now, the family feels relief that Weber County is contracted with a different waste hauler.
“It’s a limited relief because (the contract is) going to end, and so we will have to see what happens after that,” Anderson said. “But it buys us some time to educate.”