Utah water treatment company says Utah Lake algal bloom treatments were successful 01

Cameron Hassell, 8, of Santaquin, digs along the shoreline beside Leelah Bray, 10, of Orem, as they play near some algae at Utah Lake State Park in Provo on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.

Two months after the beginning of a pilot-testing of chemical algae treatments at Utah Lake, the company put in charge of the testing says the treatments have been successful.

Harmful algal blooms have impacted Utah Lake for years, and county health officials temporarily shut down the popular water body in 2016 after testing revealed HAB levels were beyond the threshold safe for public recreation.

In 2019, the Utah Lake Legislature appropriated $500,000 for the testing, studying and monitoring of Utah Lake, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, which regularly tests for HABs and waterborne pathogens at Utah Lake and other recreational lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

A portion of those funds went to Alpine Technical Services, a Midvale-based water technology company that specializes in water disinfection through chemical treatments, for pilot-testing on Utah Lake.

Those treatments began at the Lindon Marina on July 7 and have continued every two weeks since then, according to Richard Allred, CEO of the water treatment company.

“Things are actually going quite well at the Lindon Marina,” Allred said in an interview Friday. “I think what we’re finding from it (the pilot-testing) is that it’s something that we can (use to) predict when treatments need to happen, but also that we’re real confident that we could treat the whole lake.”

According to Allred, the company has been periodically applying treatments of copper sulphate anhydrite, a low-pH algicide and bactericide with a similar chemical makeup to a “product that we use on fruits and vegetables (and) drinking water.”

“And the different chemistries we use would be the same molecule (that is used on fruits, vegetables and water), but they’re unique because they stay suspended in the top layer where the bad blue-green algae is,” he said. “They don’t sink to the bottom. And they’re consumed as part of the treatment, so there’s no residual left.”

Allred said the company will likely be applying two more treatments before the fall and winter seasons, adding that the treatment could expand from Lincoln Marina to the entire lake and to other Utah water bodies that have been impacted by HABs.

“That’s our hope and goal with this,” he said. “And I think that our legislature here in the state, that’s their hope as well, is that we can move and treat all of Utah Lake, as well as the other bodies of water that have the dangerous blue-green algae.”

The CEO said he hopes the success of the chemical treatment, which will help make Utah Lake safe for recreators and residents, also will help eat away at the stigma that chemicals are dangerous and harmful to the environment.

“It is something that’s safe and it’s something that benefits the people of Utah in increased health for those people that live around the lake and for those that live down the Jordan River,” Allred said. “The economic impact is over a billion dollars to Utah County by having a dirty lake here. And if we don’t treat it, it’ll be a dead lake that doesn’t have anything in it. And I would hope that we wouldn’t have anybody in the community that would really want that: a lake that has no fish, no wildlife at all.”

“Algae has really hurt visitation in the past,” Lindon Marina Operator Ron Madson said in a press release. “Without ATS’ treatments, our inner marina would not have been usable for recreational use all summer. The treatments made the water quality in our marina excellent despite harmful algae bloom conditions right outside the marina. The application has been easy and remarkably effective.”

The Utah County Health Department currently has a warning advisory issued for the open water of Utah Lake and the American Fork Marina. For up-to-date information about HABs at Utah Lake, visit http://deq.utah.gov/water-quality/utah-lake-algal-bloom-monitoring-2020.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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