New money allows state workers to check lakes, reservoirs for toxic algae

State workers check lakes and reservoirs for toxic algae on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 with the help of new funds. (Photo: Cristina Flores)

(KUTV) — For the first time, workers at Utah Division of Water Quality have extra money to do constant monitoring for toxic algae at Utah's lakes and reservoirs.

When temperatures rise, so does the concern for toxic algae which flourish in a matter of days and pose health risks.

The algae could cause problems to the liver and nervous system if ingested.

Ben Holcomb, who coordinates state Biological Assessment and Harmful Algal Bloom Programs, said the agency will use the extra $178,000 to regularly test water samples from places like Utah Lake, where people flock for recreation, and other bodies of water used for drinking water.

Holcomb said the goal is to prove that with more monitoring, the public will be notified faster about harmful algae in the water. The monitoring should provide more information about exactly what is in the water, too.

Ryan Parker and Trevor Gruwell are two technicians on the team that collects samples from places like Deer Creek and Jordanelle Reservoirs and Utah Lake.

They do on-the-spot readings that can alert them to very high levels of algae. This would give an immediate indication that the water is unsafe and that a public notification is necessary.

Otherwise, water samples are taken to the lab and results are available within a couple of days.

Parker and Gruwell are working long days lately, but they say they don't mind.

"It makes us feel good that we are working toward something that's doing good in the world — helping other people stay safe," Gruwell said.

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