Changing EPA standards could have major consequences for Morgan City, warned a state Division of Water Quality representative.
Although he can’t be certain until November, Paul Krauth, outreach coordinator with the Utah Division of Water Quality, said the “looming regulations” governing sewer lagoons “may have dramatic impact on the town of Morgan.”
At issue is controlling nitrogen and phosphorus in water supplies. Usually, these come from fertilizers entering the water supply. An overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus encourage the growth of algae, which can strip the water of oxygen in lakes and streams.
“Fish don’t like that,” Krauth said. “East Canyon Creek used to be a good trout fishery. Not anymore.”
The situation can also lead to the release of neurotoxins, which can kill cattle when they drink from infected water supplies. Krauth said it is happening as close as Pineview Reservoir, where “swimmer’s itch” is occurring as a result of the neurotoxins on swimmers’ skin.
Krauth said the EPA is pushing states nationally to move toward establishing numeric standards. In 70 percent of the country, the trend is already catching on.
“Utah is a little late in the game,” he said.
The potential costs to build mechanical treatment plants to add chemicals to water in Utah would mean raising sewer rates at least an average of $1.20 a month, he said. Costs would be even higher if water is also filtered along with the chemical addition. Utah is a good deal compared to the nationwide average sewer bill of $60 a month.
“This is the death bell for (sewer) lagoons for us,” he said. “Lagoons are not designed and cannot treat for nitrogen at this point.”
Mechanical treatment plants can cost around $10 million, Krauth said. “And these things are power hogs,” he said.
Hyrum, Mona, Coalville and Oakley have already started building advanced mechanical plants, using a lot of grant money. Coalville’s plant cost $16 million while Oakley’w as $12 million, Krauth said.
Krauth said Morgan City would likely be able to pursue another option that could avoid upgrading to costly mechanical treatment plants. The option would be preventing discharging waste water into creeks and streams, and discharging it into the ground instead. While the efficiency of this option rests on evaporation rates and the opinions of engineers. The biggest expense for this option is storing water during the winter times, he said. Such options work well in Southern Utah, where cold water doesn’t render the ground impermeable to water.
Such option isn’t available to areas such as Mountain Green, Krauth said.
“Mountain Green has a problem,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of farmland. They’ve grown up subdivisions around that pond.”