Louis Sahagun, LA Times
When dust storms began rising off the dry bed of Owens Lake, authorities in the Eastern Sierra blamed Los Angeles’ thirst. The city had, after all, drained the lake in the 1920s to serve its faucets.
Now, as dust kicks up from Mono Lake, authorities in the Eastern Sierra are once again blaming that water-craving metropolis about 350 miles to the south.
But this time, they’re also blaming climate change.
Since 1994, a landmark State Water Resources Control Board decision has capped L.A.’s diversions of the streams that feed Mono Lake, defusing for a time one of California’s most protracted environmental battles.
Scientists say climatic shifts, however, are bringing less snow to the Sierra Nevada and less snowmelt to Mono Lake. That means if Los Angeles keeps taking its allocated share, it will lead to a decline in lake levels and increased health risks for those exposed to windblown dust from the receding shoreline, according to the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.
To protect Mono Basin’s ecosystem and airshed, regulatory officials say, will require drafting new predictive models of precipitation, temperature and evaporation rates to control diversions into an aqueduct system that has transformed the ancient brine lake into the largest source of powder-fine air pollution in the United States.
Of particular concern are particulates of 10 microns or less, which are regulated by state and federal laws because they can lodge deep in the lungs, causing respiratory injuries. Dust storms at Mono Lake exceeded federal health standards 33 times in 2016, officials said.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power takes issue with the Great Basin district’s warning that more restrictive measures may be needed to meet clean air standards.
“We’re headed for a showdown with Los Angeles; no doubt about it,” said Phillip Kiddoo, air pollution control officer at Great Basin.
Phillip Kiddoo, air pollution control officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, walks across salt and fine white sand at Mono Lake's shoreline, which is prone to dust storms. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
“The best way to control Mono’s airborne particulates is to raise the lake level, submerging exposed areas of lake bed prone to dust storms,” Kiddoo said. “To do that, however, L.A. has to agree to further reduce its annual exports of water, which isn’t likely.
“While we cannot interfere with L.A.’s water conveyance system, we could file a lawsuit,” he said. “And California health and safety codes give Great Basin authority to assess the city for our legal expenses.”
Rich Harasick, the DWP’s senior assistant general manager of the water system, said further reductions of its water exports aren’t needed. Since the water board’s 1994 decision, he said, the utility’s diversions have had “a very limited influence on Mono Lake’s elevation.”
Today, he said, the lake level is mainly influenced by weather conditions, which are affecting watersheds in which it operates throughout the Eastern Sierra.
Los Angeles Times Click here to continue reading.
Lake Bonneville Geologic Conference October 3-4, 2018
Lake Bonneville Geologic Short Course October 5-6, 2018
The conference and short course will be held at the Utah Department of Natural Resources Auditorium at 1594 West North Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference will be open to the geologic community. The conference will cover geologic topic related to pre-Bonneville Quaternary lakes, Lake Bonneville, the Gilbert episode, and Great Salt Lake. The short course will be led by Jack Oviatt and will review Lake Bonneville geology. The first day of the short course will consist of classroom instruction and the second day will consist of a field trip to nearby sites where Bonneville stratigraphy and landforms will be observed. These meetings are sponsored by the Utah Geological Survey and the Utah Division of Professional and Occupational Licensing.
The conference format will include technical presentations, a poster session, and group discussions.
If you are interested in presenting at the conference, please contact Adam McKean for further information. Registration for the meeting will hopefully open by the end of July. A separate formal announcement will be sent out with an online registration link on that day.
A registration fee of $26 per day will be charged all participants (lunch, morning and afternoon snacks, and short course booklet will be provided).
Please contact Adam McKean with questions (801-537-3386 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Partial funding for this educational opportunity has been provided by the Utah Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing and the Education and Enforcement Fund.
By Brian Switek
Look at the Great Salt Lake and you might think of the vast body of water as lifeless. That’s far from the truth, of course. Not only is the Great Salt Lake home to an incredible number of brine shrimp - fodder for migrating birds looking to refuel - it also boasts microscopic life that’s adapted to the harsh conditions of the super-salty water. They’re called halophiles, and our Natural History Museum of Utah exhibit staff has just come up with a perfect recipe to help them thrive in our exhibit about the local lake.
There’s no single biological category for halophiles. “Most of them are bacteria,” Museum exhibit services supervisor Will Black says, “but they could also be eukaryotes,” or organisms made up of a cell or cells containing their DNA inside a nucleus. Regardless of their classification, though, Black notes that what makes halophiles distinct is right there in their name - halophile is Greek for “salt-loving.”
Click here to view any of the wonderful 2018 Issues Forum Presentations. Thank you again to our sponsors, speakers, and everyone who made this event a big briny success.
Executive Director's Message – Spring 2018
“Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into. “
Oliver Hardy to Stan Laurel (Laurel & Hardy)
On February 16, 2018 – just short of a year into the process – Promontory Point Resources LLC (PPR) withdrew its application for a Class V Permit, which was at that time under review by the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control. In its letter to Scott Anderson, the Division Director, PPR requested that his staff discontinue review of the application “until further notice.” Although the train has stopped short of the station, it’s highly unlikely that it won’t eventually show up. I hope I’m wrong about this but my skepticism leads me to believe that it’s only a matter of time before this economic boondoggle rears its ugly head once again. I say this because the money that has already been thrown at it and the politics that support it will continue to fuel it.
That being said, a lot has happened with this convoluted saga both before and after PPR’s request to withdraw its application. My goal here is to help shed additional light on some of the deeper corners of this conversation and to help you maintain your sense of footing on the issue by including some things that are worth repeating for context.
I wrote extensively about this in the Winter 2018 newsletter. Important points were reiterated in the joint Op-Ed that FRIENDS and Sierra Club published in the 1/26/18 Salt Lake Tribune – Another Class V Landfill is Not the Way to Generate Economic Development for Utah. And we talked about the process and asked questions with the Division at public information meetings hosted by FRIENDS and Sierra Club in January and February. Nothing has changed and the message remains the same today.
There are many reasons why this proposal is a huge gamble for both Box Elder County and the people of Utah. As a potential economic asset worthy of investment, it’s rife with empty promises and predictable missteps in its practices. And it’s an extremely risky proposition. Perhaps the only thing about it that can be said with any certainty is that it is a clear and present danger to Great Salt Lake.
Because it’s located next to this hemispherically significant ecosystem that’s critical to millions of migratory birds, a global brine shrimp fishery, and mineral extraction operations that rely on the purity of their products, it jeopardizes a known economic generator of $1.32B annually to the people of Utah. That figure includes $375M in total labor income, and 7,700 jobs that are created from the Lake’s ecosystem services. This project jeopardizes a valuable and irreplaceable resource by constructing a repository for toxic waste and contamination that all Utahns will have to live with for centuries to come. Which is why it’s imperative that we keep our eye on this disturbing foul ball.
You will recall that under its existing Class I Permit that was acquired with the purchase of the 2,000 acres of property in 2016, PPR, which is the only privately owned landfill in the state, has already sunk at least $16.25M of taxpayers’ money into the incomplete construction of a landfill facility at the SW tip of Promontory Peninsula.
The money was approved for construction of a Class I landfill in December 2016 by the Utah Private Activity Bond Authority (PAB) part of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The bonding was issued by Box Elder County. It’s important to note that the PAB rejected PPR’s initial request for bonding authority for a Class V facility in its October 2016 meeting, which is curious because at that time PPR had not, in fact, submitted its application for a Class V Permit to the Division. As a result of the rejection, PPR modified and resubmitted its request to the PAB on December 6, 2016 for Class I bonding. The PAB approved the request in a 5-4 vote for an allocation of $16.25M to be issued through tax-exempt bonds. PPR is obligated to begin paying interest on those bonds in June 2018 – which is, like, tomorrow!
It’s no wonder that PPR wanted to test the waters with its request for funding a Class V Permit from the PAB because it already had the momentum to support that goal from the 2016 General Session of the Utah Legislature. On March 2016, a joint resolution (HJR 020) sponsored by Sen. Pete C. Knudson (Brigham City), and Rep. Lee B. Perry (Perry, UT) was approved to provide legislative endorsement for a Class V operation. “It would have a favorable economic impact on Box Elder County in the form of new permanent jobs and host fees.” A year later, in an article by Leia Larsen at the Standard Examiner, it appeared that Rep. Perry expressed some remorse about his impulsiveness to grease the skids on this idea. He said the measure was presented to him as an urgent matter, tied to an immediate economic opportunity. The article states that confusion about what type of waste would be accepted, where waste would come from and the depth of local support for – or opposition to – the project were essentially unheeded. Perry also said he wasn’t aware at the time that the company would pursue coal ash, incinerator ash, contaminated soil and industrial waste. It’s unfortunate for all of us that Rep. Perry chose not take more time to become better informed about this “opportunity” before jumping on the band wagon to endorse it. Alas!
On January 4, 2017, Brett Snelgrove, on behalf of Allos Environmental, the parent company of Promontory Point Resources, LLC, and a representative from TetraTech, the company overseeing the design of the landfill, made a presentation to the GSL Advisory Council about the Class I permitted facility. They talked about the design, economic viability, environmental controls, transportation of in-state waste to the site via the overland county road, and a modification of a permit that was on the verge of approval by the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control; a reference that remained unclear at that time.
In addition to the $16.25M mentioned above, $20M in private equity capital had also been committed to the project. Among the project costs that must be considered before the facility can begin to operate i.e. receive waste, is a Division-approved bonding source to cover mitigation costs for clean up of any contamination incidents and/or if closure of the facility is left in the hands of the state. The Executive Director of the Department of Environmental Quality would be the designated trustee for this account. What’s concerning here is that the amount of money in the fund – only about $2M – would be woefully inadequate in the event that any of these scenarios occurred. And they may well occur: – existing science supports a compelling argument that impacts to Great Salt Lake are both probable and dangerous.
PPR hoped to break ground on the Class I landfill by the end of February 2017 but it wasn’t until May when that happened. Since the presentation raised many questions from a packed room of attendees, the GSL Advisory Council (with one abstention from its Box Elder representative) unanimously agreed to send a letter to the Division expressing numerous concerns it had about the facility and its proximity to the Lake.
Remember that among the many challenges with this business venture for PPR and its Class I Permit is that it can only take waste under contracts approved by the Division from local governments within the state. Currently, that market is already sewn up by 10 existing facilities within the state that have a collective life storage capacity of 363 years. And although PPR’s Class I Permit is up for renewal in 2021, that isn’t where the economic payback is going to come from for these private business partners.
The real moneymaker seems to be in a Class V Permit on the assumption that it would give PPR some room to move in the marketplace. A Class V Permit would ramp up PPR as a commercial facility. It wouldn’t be limited in its scope of waste markets by having to secure Division-approved contracts. And it could take out of state waste like coal ash from California. It’s well established that coal ash is a hazardous waste.
However, to facilitate this PPR says it would need a railroad spur on to the site from the UPRR causeway that crosses the Lake. This of course is a terrible idea and clearly untenable since it would entail the transport of potentially hazardous waste across the entire Lake, likely spreading contamination. Additionally, this prospect is overshadowed by the fact that there are already 10 Class V landfill facilities with a combined life storage capacity of more than 2,000 years in operation in Utah. You might think this would have raised question about PPR’s economic viability in the Utah marketplace. Nevertheless, in March 2017, PPR applied for a Class V Permit with the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control.
When filing its application, PPR was required to include a Needs Assessment Report to justify the need for the facility. In July 2017, an independent third party review of the report identified numerous data gaps that had to be addressed before evaluation of the application could proceed. A Needs Assessment Report Addendum was filed on December 20th. This time the third party review found that “it does not demonstrate the need for additional Class V landfill capacity in Utah, does not provide a robust market analysis, and has some remaining data gaps and therefore does not establish the need for the facility.” Back to the drawing board.
On January 9, 2018, a notice went out from the Division inviting public comment on a request from PPR for the installation and relocation of three down gradient monitoring wells. After review by PPR and its engineering and water consultants, it was noted that some of the wells proposed in the Class I Permit Modification (May 2016) were greater than 500 feet from the waste boundary. Down gradient monitoring wells are important for early detection of potential contamination pathways from the landfill into the surrounding water and landscape to avoid impacts. Why the initial location of the three down gradient monitoring wells were so off the mark to serve their objective is puzzling.
On February 14, 2018, the deadline for public comment, Western Resource Advocates submitted a letter to the Division on behalf of FRIENDS and Sierra Club expressing concerns about the subjectivity in the location of the monitoring wells and emphasized the need for better hydro-geologic data pertaining to the landfill and in order to protect groundwater from contamination. The letter included public comments that were submitted by the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, Compass Minerals, and the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College. All of the comments stressed concerns about the lack of groundwater data and the potential of groundwater flows from upland areas on Promontory Point to documented, proximal lakebed spring systems into this unique and significant ecosystem. Two days later, PPR withdrew its Class V Permit application “until further notice.”
So what does the square root of this information tell us? It tells us that
“Any miscalculation in design or engineering features that results in leaching, leaking, or catastrophic discharge of waste into Great Salt Lake will be highly consequential to the ecology and economic value of GSL. The history of coal ash disposal sites is replete with case studies of intentional, unintentional, and accidental discharge into surrounding terrestrial and aquatic systems causing acute and prolonged harm to aquatic organisms, populations, habitats and ecosystems.”*
Because the risks far outweigh the benefits for Utah’s economy and the long-term integrity of the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem, if PPR changes its mind and reapplies for the Class V Permit, it should be denied.
* From the whitepaper Risks to Biota and the Ecosystem of Great Salt Lake from the PPR with Particular Emphasis on Potential Harm to the Brine Shrimp (Artemia franciscana) Population, February 2018, written by Brad Marden, Parliament Fisheries,LLC on behalf of the Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative.
SALT LAKE CITY – Governor Gary R. Herbert has declared May 2018 as the Month of the Bird in Utah. The declaration celebrates native and migratory birds making their way through Utah this time of year and the Beehive State’s remarkable landscapes and water resources that support them.
“May is a great month for residents and visitors to celebrate the important and inspirational role of birds that live in and migrate through our state. I want to thank National Audubon Society for their efforts in protecting birds and the places they need in Utah and beyond,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert.
A number of longstanding events providing educational and recreational birding opportunities occur in Utah every May, such as the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, now in its 20th year.
Home to 22 Important Bird Areas and more than 400 observed species, the Governor’s declaration recognizes that Utah’s natural resources provide important habitat for birds. Great Salt Lake and its wetlands, for instance, serve as an important breeding and stopover area for millions of migratory birds each year.
“The wonders of Great Salt Lake hold something for everyone. Seeing Killdeer around the shores of the lake takes me back to my childhood growing up on a farm in Delta - it was always my favorite bird,” said Michael Styler, executive director for Utah’s Department of Natural Resources. “The Department of Natural Resources, along with other local, state, and federal partners, conservation organizations, academia, and businesses, play important and shared roles in protecting Great Salt Lake for migratory birds.”
In addition to May as Month of the Bird in Utah, people around the world are celebrating 2018 as Year of the Bird. This year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the oldest wildlife protection laws in the United States. In honor of this milestone, National Geographic, Audubon, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and dozens of other partners around the world joined forces to celebrate 2018 as the Year of the Bird.
“Year of the Bird is an easy way people can take small everyday actions to help birds along their journeys,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO for National Audubon Society. “Utah is a critical stopover for birds like the Western Sandpiper that refuel at Great Salt Lake on their way to nest and raise their young in Alaska. We’d like to thank Governor Herbert for declaring May as Month of the Bird and recognizing the importance of birds and the places we share.”
Many conservation organizations, businesses and academics have been instrumental in protecting birds and the places they need in Utah. In celebrating May as the Month of the Bird and 2018 Year of the Bird, there is great appreciation for the efforts of many organizations, including local Audubon chapters, The Nature Conservancy in Utah, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake, Great Salt Lake Institute (Westminster College), waterfowl associations and duck clubs, and many others.
Upcoming events include:
Congratulations to Katherine Barrett, University of Notre Dame, winner of the 2018 Doyle W. Stephens Scholarship for reasearch related to Great Salt Lake.
Katherine Barrett will be awarded the $1,000 scholarship during the 2018 Great Salt Lake Issues Forum on May 10 at the Fort Douglas Officers Club on the campus of the Universtiy of Utah.
Barrett's project titled, Linking Artemia To the Benthos: Do Microbialites Support Brine Shrimp Production in Great Salt Lake?, explores the connections among the Great Salt Lake food chain. See below for her project description
PROJECT DESCRIPTION Despite covering at least 700 km2 in the south arm of Great Salt Lake (GSL), fundamental ecological understanding of microbialites, their associated brine fly populations, and interactions with brine shrimp, is in its nascent stages (Baskin 2014). Researchers have suggested that the benthic (brine fly) and pelagic (brine shrimp) food chains may be linked, and microbialites may be a critical component of brine shrimp cyst production. A long-term pelagic study has benefitted researchers and managers with an understanding of brine shrimp and phytoplankton dynamics in relationship to variable abiotic factors, but this dataset lacks a complementary benthic study (Belovsky et al. 2011). Without further information on the benthic food chain, the importance of pathways supporting brine shrimp production remains speculative. My proposed research, which involves field and laboratory studies, aims to identify microbialite communities and quantify their contribution as a food source to brine shrimp populations in GSL. Since the construction of a rock and gravel railroad causeway created a salinity gradient in GSL, my project will focus on the south arm because that is where brine flies, shrimp, and microbialites are biologically active.
Take a look at this article about Lake Albert just published in the scientific journal, Biological Conservation.
Biological Conservation, Volume 220
Nathan R.Senner Johnnie N.Moore TrentSeager SteveDougill KeithKreuz Stanley E.Senner
Abstract: Saline lakes are threatened globally and provide critical habitat for a diverse array of migratory and breeding waterbirds. The ability of large numbers of waterbirds to profitably use saline lakes is primarily dependent upon concentrations of invertebrate fauna that are only present within a narrow range of salinities. Additionally, waterbirds themselves can incur steep physiological costs as their salt loads increase, meaning that they are especially sensitive to changes in salinity. Nonetheless, relatively little is known about ecosystem function within natural saline lakes or how birds will respond to fluctuations in salinity across time, hindering efforts to maintain ecologically functional saline ecosystems. To help address this gap, we coupled data from waterbird surveys undertaken across 25 years at Lake Abert, Oregon, USA with data on lake area (a proxy for salinity) and invertebrate abundance to document how waterbird numbers changed in response to variation in lake area and the presence of their invertebrate prey. We found that as the area of Lake Abert decreased and salinity increased, both invertebrate and waterbird numbers declined, with especially high salinities associated with the presence of few waterbirds and invertebrates. However, we also found that at high lake levels and low salinities the abundance of most waterbirds and invertebrates either plateaued or declined as well. Our study reinforces physiological studies showing that both invertebrates and waterbirds can only tolerate a narrow range of salinities, and is among the first to document the effects of this tolerance range at the ecosystem level. As anthropogenic water usage increases and snowfall decreases in the coming century, Great Basin saline lakes are projected to increasingly face water shortages and high salinities. Conserving saline lake ecosystems thus requires mitigating these losses and maintaining water levels and salinities within the normal range of inter-annual variation. When conditions outside of this range occur too frequently or persist too long, they can result in dysfunctional ecosystems with deleterious consequences for the species that rely on them.
Click here to access the entire paper: A Salt Lake Under Stress
FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake is accepting artistic representations of Great Salt Lake in the categories of visual art, literary art, sound, and movement for consideration for the 5th annual Alfred Lambourne Prize. The Alfred Lambourne Arts Program celebrates the relationship between local artists and our Inland Sea. Through art, we are able to enhance our understanding of Great Salt Lake and build awareness about our need to preserve and protect it.
This year, we will offer $500 prizes to winners in each of the four artistic categories (visual art, literary art, sound, and movement). Finalists in each category will be invited to display and/or perform their work during the gallery opening and reception on September 7, 2018 at the Sorenson Unity Center Gallery and Blackbox Theatre.
Click here for more information and to submit your work. The submission period will close May 15th
by Leia Larsen, Standard Examiner. Photo by Benjamin Zach
Could an inland port opening on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake potentially benefit a landfill looking to open to the north, on Promontory Point? The two sites seemed linked by a lot more than their proximity to the lake.
A bill rushed through the end of the 2018 Utah Legislative Session created an Inland Port Authority to oversee construction and operation of one of the largest international trade hubs in the nation’s interior. Gov. Gary Herbert inked the bill and made it law Friday, despite pleas from Salt Lake City officials and Salt Lake County residents for his veto.
Meanwhile, operators of Promontory Point Resources and its parent company, ALLOS Environmental, are building a large landfill facility on Promontory Point a few thousand feet from the Great Salt Lake near the Union Pacific causeway.
PPR has already invested millions in the site, so it came as a surprise when the company seemingly abandoned its plans to seek out-of-state waste last month by suddenly withdrawing an application for Class V status.
It seems the Class V permit may have been denied anyway, since a March 1 report by a consultant for the Department of Environmental Quality found no need for another Class V landfill in Utah.
PPR representatives tried to block that report from becoming public. The landfill owners also claimed they are focusing on developing the site under the existing Class I permit.
February 14, 2018
Scott T. Anderson
Director Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control
P.O. Box 144880
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4880
email@example.com submitted via email only Re: Public Comment on Promontory Point Landfill Modification
Dear Director Anderson,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed modification to the Promontory Point Resources, LLC Landfill monitoring wells. We make these comments on behalf of FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake and Sierra Club, which are greatly concerned about the level of subjectivity in the location of the monitoring wells, and respectfully requests that the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control withhold any permit modification or approval until it is determined whether the placement of the wells would allow the wells to perform their intended function of detecting the release of contaminants.
FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake (FRIENDS) is a non-profit organization that has, as its mission, the preservation and protection of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem as well as Great Salt Lake’s watershed, and the organization seeks to increase public awareness and appreciation of the Lake through education, research, advocacy, and the arts. The organization has long been involved in the protection and restoration of Great Salt Lake, its ecosystems and its watershed, advocating for ways in which the public may enjoy these resources by fishing, bird-watching, boating, photographing, hiking and studying these natural areas. On behalf of its members, FRIENDS frequently participates in agency processes that affect Great Salt Lake. FRIENDS considers this participation to be critical to its mission and to be valuable as a means of influencing the administration of lands that will lead to the protection and preservation of the Greater Great Salt Lake watershed.
As America’s largest grassroots environmental organization, the Sierra Club has more than 3.5 million members and supporters nationwide and more than 5,600 members living in Utah. In addition to helping people of all backgrounds have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to preserve and restore our remaining wild places, to promote the responsible use of the Earth’s resources and ecosystems, and to safeguard the 2 health of communities through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation.
Promontory Point Resources, LLC seeks to modify its existing Class I Permit for the Promontory Point Resources, LLC Landfill after constructing the landfill over the top of at least two of the originally-approved monitoring well sites. The Public Notice Provided purports that the well locations will meet the 500 foot requirements of Utah Code Ann. R315-308-2(2), but there is no agency analysis to show that conclusion to be accurate. Before approving the new monitoring well locations, the Division should independently determine whether the wells are no further than 500 feet from the boundary of the landfill. Further, Utah Code Ann. R315-308-2(2) requires that the placement of groundwater monitoring wells be at "appropriate locations to yield samples from the uppermost aquifer and all hydraulically connect aquifers” and that the downgradient wells are installed at the "closest practicable distance hydraulically down gradient from the unit boundary not to exceed 150 meters (500 feet)”. There is no analysis or evidence to establish that these additional requirements of Utah Code Ann. R315-308-2(2) have been met.
Utah Code Ann R315-308-2 requires a complete and comprehensive groundwater monitoring program, not merely monitoring wells. The Class I permit currently includes such a groundwater monitoring program based on the locations of the previouslyapproved groundwater monitoring well sites. There needs to be review and analysis of the current groundwater monitoring program to determine whether that program needs to be revised based on the fact that the monitoring wells require relocation. Such analysis should be performed before any relocation of monitoring wells is approved.
Additionally, even if the proposed well locations meet the minimum distance requirements of Utah Code Ann. R315-308-2(2), due to the subsurface geology of the area around the proposed landfill the proposed wells may not actually perform their intended function – to detect the release of contaminants. Recall that Utah Code Ann. R315-308-2(2) requires that the placement of groundwater monitoring wells be at "appropriate locations to yield samples from the uppermost aquifer and all hydraulically connect aquifers” and that the downgradient wells are installed at the "closest practicable distance hydraulically down gradient from the unit boundary not to exceed 150 meters (500 feet)”. There is a great amount of subjectivity in where the wells should be placed, and their locations should be selected only after careful review and consideration of the site in order to ensure compliance with Utah Code Ann. R315-3082(2). The fact that some of the originally –approved wells were constructed over further demonstrates the need to carefully consider the subjective location of these monitoring wells. Accordingly, 3 before issuing a final permit, the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control should require additional study and review of the proposed sites for the monitoring wells, to be undertaken and paid for by the Promontory Point Resources, LLC; to determine whether the proposed wells will function as intended.
The Great Salt Lake Advisory Council (GSLAC), in correspondence dated January 10, 2018, and previously submitted to the Division (Exhibit A, attached); Compass Minerals, in correspondence dated December 15, 2017 and previously submitted to the Division (Exhibit B, attached); and Dr. Bonnie Baxter, Director Great Salt Lake Institute, Westminster College in correspondence dated January 31, 2018 and previously submitted to the Division (Exhibit C, attached), emphasize the need for better hydro-geologic data pertaining to the landfill and in order to protect groundwater from contamination. All three letters are included with these comments.
Dr. Baxter’s letter, (See, Exhibit C) identifies hydrogeological concerns and the lack of data on page two, stating specifically:
● Lack of information on groundwater connection between landfill and lake: The landfill site is in close proximity to the waters of Great Salt Lake, and the groundwater connections from the site to the lake have not been well-researched to my knowledge. This is critical; there is potential of groundwater flow from upland areas on Promontory Point to documented, proximal lakebed spring systems into this unique and significant ecosystem. This would be a potential preferential pathway for leachate should it escape undetected into groundwater or fracture sets in bedrock beneath the proposed landfill. I also have concerns about the lack of groundwater quality data and the placement of monitoring wells. Will the monitoring wells monitor both alluvium bedrock groundwater? A deeper understanding is necessary in the area of the landfill in order to protect against potential landfill leachate.
● Microbialite density suggests groundwater connection between landfill and lake: Microbialites (e.g. stromatolites, “bioherms,” “biostromes”) are structures precipitated on the lake floor by microorganisms that photosynthesize and power the lake’s ecosystem by producing energy and turning over nutrients (e.g. Lindsay, M. R., et al. "Microbialite response to an anthropogenic salinity gradient in Great Salt Lake, Utah." Geobiology 15.1 (2017): 131-145). These are feeding stations for brine fly pupae, which are eaten by diving birds (e.g. ducks, phalaropes). For these reasons and others, microbialites are a key focal point of understanding the lake ecology.
Current models of microbialite formation, in sites around the world, suggest that they form where groundwater seeps occur as the groundwater would be necessary to bring calcium and form the calcium carbonate material. The microbialite structures in Great 4 Salt Lake are the densest on the shallow shelfs bounded by faults as the water depth changes. This suggests that the major faults under Great Salt Lake, to the west of the landfill site, may be seeping groundwater. As these faults are fairly close to the western shore of Promontory Point (~4,000 meters), it is possible that groundwater that recharges on the upland Promontory Point discharges, at least partially, via these faults.
The Great Salt Lake Alliance Council listed the following concerns in its correspondence, (See, Exhibit A):
• Sufficiency of existing studies to determine the scope and potential migration of leachate generated by stored waste at the facility; specifically for long term storage and degradation of liners over time and the potential environmental consequences of leaks to Great Salt Lake;
• The adequacy of plans and infrastructure designed to collect leachate from waste and ensure that it does not contaminate groundwater, endanger wildlife, or enter the lake; both now and into the future. • Given the density difference of leachate and GSL water, there are concerns that leachate would ‘float to the top’, thus creating a toxic surface lens;
• The potential for containment failure, particularly as it relates to earthquakes, subsidence, seiche waves, and liner degradation over time;
• Design standard adequacy in this environment to handle runoff equal to or greater than a 100-year rain event;
• Sufficiency of plan design to address fractured bedrock beneath the site and movement of groundwater through it, which creates natural pathways for leachate and associated toxins to contaminate groundwater and for that contamination to spread;
GSLAC then requested that the Division complete further studies (See, Exhibit C): “[T]o determine the full extent of the risks and the adequacy of the measures designed to address them. Those studies include a more extensive study of groundwater movement on Promontory and how this facility could affect ground and surface water resources, as well as the adequacy of the facility t 5 capture and process leachate; (ii) prevent the escape of fugitive waste and other debris; (iii) prevent fly ash or other toxic dust from entering the environment from the landfill or from transportation to the landfill; and (iv) withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes, seiche waves which have occurred, and will likely occur again in this area, as well as degradation of the liners over time.”
Compass Minerals correspondence posed three questions related to groundwater and the potential for contamination, specifically relating to a potential pathway for contaminants from the landfill to the lake via the lakebed springs:
• Have groundwater fate and transport studies that have been conducted or will need to be conducted as part of the Promontory Landfill’s request integrated the presence of these springs within the near-shore lakebed into the project scope?
• Has the source area for the springs on the GSL lakebed been assessed to determine whether the recharge area for the springs is beneath or near the proposed Promontory landfill?
• If so, is there is a nexus between the recharge area and the springs that creates a preferential pathway from landfill leachate sources to the GSL lakebed in near proximity to the termination of Compass Minerals Behrens Trench on the southwest tip of Promontory Point?
The correspondence from Dr. Baxter, Compass Minerals, and GSLAC are representative of the importance of understanding the hydrogeology of the area in order to protect water quality and Great Salt Lake itself from pollution and other potential contaminants that may be discharged or leak from Promontory Point Resources, LLC’s Class I landfill located on Promontory Point.
Additionally, in any decision of the well locations herein, we respectfully request that the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control consult with the Division of Water Quality regarding Promontory Point Resources recent and repeated flooding of the County road on the Southwest boundary of the landfill, on or near the proposed relocation of the monitoring wells. It is unclear whether this relates to Promontory Point Resources’ storm water permit and pollution plan, but whether or not it is related, there exists real questions as to whether the storm water pollution plan and retention pond, and whether those will have any effect on the proposed location of the groundwater 6 monitoring wells. Attached you will please find two photographs of the flooding taken in January of 2018 by Young Brothers Livestock; Exhibit D.
There is also concern that the Needs Assessment Addendum for Promontory Point Resources, LLC’s Class V permit application is included with the groundwater monitoring wells relocation proposal. As the Class V permitting process is proceeding and the Needs Assessment is a portion of that application, it should not be considered as part of any Class I Permit Modification, and we respectfully request that the Division not consider the Needs Assessment Addendum for the Class V landfill application or any material contained therein when considering this requested modification for a Class I landfill permit. The Division has not reviewed or approved the Needs Assessment Addendum in conjunction with the Class I Permit Modification, and should make that clear as part of its decision whether to permit the proposed well relocations.
Due to the great subjectivity of the well placement, the flooding issues, and the complex subsurface geology of Promontory Point, the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control should not approve this permit unless and until it can be determined the wells will in fact be located in the proper place to actually detect contaminants from the proposed landfill. Merely locating the wells within 500 feet of the waste boundary of the proposed landfill site is not enough to ensure that meaningful monitoring will actually occur. Due to the great subjectivity of the wells location within the 500 foot requirement, additional information is required.
Thank you kindly for your time and attention to this matter.
Very Truly Yours,
Ariel C. Calmes, staff attorney Western Resource Advocates
Andrea Issod Senior Attorney Sierra Club Environmental Law