Water quality question in Scofield plan
With the Scofield Pleasant Valley Plan going before the county commission for final approval later this year, new development regulations will likely come into effect. However, throughout the approval process, many questions arose concerning the water quality in Scofield reservoir, because it supplies most of the county's drinking water. While many questions were answered, a few remained unresolved. Now Carbon County and the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) are considering conducting an extensive ground water study in the Pleasant Valley area. Although funding is not yet secured, most personnel who are involved with the project are confident that an agreement between the county and the state can be arranged.
"This study will help us make decisions because (water quality impact) is a constant question when the planning commission is considering a new development code. We want to identify our baseline and determine what capacity we have for development," said county planning director, Dave Levanger.
A few previous water studies have been conducted in the area, but have not included the same details on which the proposed study will focus, such as phosphate and nitrate levels. Both phosphate and nitrate have been known to emerge from septic systems and can contaminate water. One long-standing question the study will hopefully answer is whether the phosphate levels are natural or artificial. Regardless of their origins, such contaminates create a variety of water-related issues including human exposure, but also algae blooms, which can kill fish.
"We're looking at septic tank information to determine how many tanks can be developed in an area. Phosphate and nitrate are the main substances (to be considered) and septic tanks cause both," said Mike Lowe, Utah Geological Survey (UGS) manager of ground water. While phosphate can be absorbed into the soil, surface water bodies such as the reservoir are more susceptible to it. Nitrate, on the other hand, can move quickly through soils and contaminate water.
As proposed, the study will drill five new monitoring wells and take samples from 20 others in order to examine the soil and water. Pending funding will take about a year to complete, starting in July, 2010.
According to DWQ hydrologist, Bill Danery, to receive funding, Carbon County will need to pay about $30,000 of the total $120,000 cost. The remaining costs will be paid by UGS and the federal government. In the past, UGS has funded such studies entirely, but for reasons involving lower state budgets and other factors, local fund matches are typically required.
"I've done plenty of projects where we've funded the whole thing and nothing happens afterward; that's why we require a strong local match," said Danery.
The DWQ has undertaken a couple of other similar studies around Beaver and Washington County, but has also done work for numerous cities across the state.
"I believe it will be funded and think it will eliminate some of the guess work," said Levanger.