Algal bloom problem in Utah Lake continues to spread

Jun 25, 2018, 7:31 PM | Updated: 9:14 pm

PROVO, Utah – The harmful algal bloom on Utah Lake has spread beyond where it was first detected in Provo Bay two weeks ago. As a result, the Utah County Health Department has warned people and pets to stay out of the scummy green algae in Provo Bay Utah Lake State Park, Lincoln Beach and Sandy Beach.

To better warn the public and detect the harmful blooms earlier, the Utah Division of Water Quality has intensified monitoring this year using satellite imagery, buoys on the water and sampling in the lake.

“We’re in full swing,” said Ben Holcomb, harmful algal blooms program coordinator for the Utah Division of Water Quality.

Crews with the Utah Division of Water Quality in the field and in the office have been monitoring full-time for algal blooms now, prioritizing bodies of water that have shown cyanobacteria.

“Anywhere where we have an advisory, we’re going to hit that area at least once a week,” said Holcomb.

They use satellite imagery to focus  on areas where algal blooms maybe forming. Several buoys in Utah Lake and two other bodies of water also pick up real time data readings in the water around the clock.

Satellite imagery and buoys on the water help the technicians zero in on areas with thick blooms.

“If we see it moving one way or another, or we see it intensifying in a particular area we will know to intensify our monitoring efforts for those places,” said Holcomb.

Data from satellites, buoys and water samples give them a clearer understanding of the blooms than ever before.

“You start to get a nice picture of what’s going on with the lake,” said Ryan Parker, a water quality technician with the Utah Division of Water Quality who was taking water samples at the lake Monday.

“That’s the hope, that we will be able to develop a model that shows maybe in the future they can predict whether these things are going to happen, or not,” he said.

“A week ago, we had a green mass all on this beach area,” said Parker standing along the shore of the lake near Utah Lake State Park.

He said that algal bloom doesn’t look as bad as it did last week.

Lincoln Beach Marin, however, looks worse, he said.

Both spots were now on the list of areas to avoid along the shore. Both areas have still been testing positive for toxins related to the algal bloom.

“This is fairly early in the season,” said Parker. “So, I would suspect that we will continue to see stuff like this for the rest of the summer. As long as it stays hot like this.”

The technicians tested the water at 16 sites around the lake last week, and again Monday. Last week, they detected high concentrations of cyanobacteria and toxins at Lincoln Marina, Sandy Beach, Provo Bay, and Utah Lake State Park

Tests showed levels above that recommended for swimming and pets. Lab results from the samples were expected to be available in a few days. Meantime, the Utah County Health Department has alerted people and pets to stay out of the water in those areas.

“We are seeing signs of it popping up,” Holcomb said of the algal bloom. “It’s not lake wide yet. We’re continuing to collect samples out of the main body of water.”

Check with the Utah DEQ Harmful Algal Blooms website for more detailed information.

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Algal bloom problem in Utah Lake continues to spread