Water quality discussion is foggy

By Abigail Norton
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – The Hill was awash with talk of water quality at a recent Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee which
met to hear presentations on environmental issues facing Utah.

Walt Baker, director of the Division of Water Quality, presented current problems with water quality in Utah. He cited nutrient pollution, the Great Salt Lake, and responding to oil spills as Utah’s main challenges.

Baker and his division recognize the results of these issues. According to Baker, pollution, “Reduces the aesthetics and our enjoyment of our lakes and streams for recreation, as well as it destroys fisheries.”
But the department has ideas for solutions. To maintain the Great Salt Lake, Baker mentioned the possibility of a flush tax. “We put a $1 month flush tax on all of the usersthat are connected to the sewer systems and 75 percent of the wastewater in the state goes into the Great Salt Lake,” Baker said. He noted that everyone has a “stake in the lake” but no one has stepped up to fund its maintenance. Funds from the tax would be put intodoing improvements for the lake.

“A flush tax might take some of the heat off of the wood burning issue?” asked Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, joking with the committee. Christofferson referenced debate over a wood-burning ban, which would prohibit most Utahns from burning wood
and other solid fuels, such as coal, in their homes from November to March.

Ken Bousfield, director of the Division of Drinking Water, also spoke, touting the functionality of water processes in Utah. The division covers water systems “from sourceto tap”, as Bousfield put it.

Rep. Scott Chew, R-Jensen, asked Bousfield about the purpose of stormwater permitting, which is to control pollutants that run off of parking lots or from lawns. As Bousfield pointed out, it is not a flood control. He said when he thinks of stormwater, he “thinks of water quality.”

 

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