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Region 6 Environmental Contaminants

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Success Stories - Utah

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Selenium Reduction

Department of Interior National Irrigation Water Quality Program (NIWQP) investigations into problems caused by irrigation drainage in northeastern Utah revealed leakage of wastewater ponds at the Ashley Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility (Ashley Valley) near Vernal. The wastewater percolated through Mancos Shale, a selenium-bearing formation, and out into Ashley Creek, a tributary to the Green River in an area of biological importance to the endangered razorback sucker. High concentrations of selenium entered the environment from this source. The USFWS EC Program in Utah played a major role in NIWQP investigations in northeastern Utah and in assessing the Ashley Creek selenium problem. The State of Utah and Ashley Valley initiated action when the USFWS threatened prosecution under the Endangered Species Act due to effects to endangered fish. Ashley Valley and the State of Utah signed a consent decree to replace the existing lagoon system with a mechanical treatment facility by February 2001. Ashley Valley has initiated interim measures aimed at reducing seepage into the selenium-bearing formation by reducing the number of ponds from five to three. Grants and loans from the State of Utah and a federal appropriation of $7 million will be used to pay for the project. Salinity control funds from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may also be available for the project. Ashley Valley has received designs and construction bids for a new facility. Construction will take approximately 18 months. The load of selenium contributed to the Green River system by Ashley Creek is about the same as all of the other upstream sources combined. The NIWQP studies showed that the Ashley Valley wastewater ponds contributed the majority of selenium into Ashley Creek. Completion of the new facility should eliminate a significant portion of the selenium problem to endangered fish in northeastern Utah.

Jordan River Habitat Restoration

The Jordan River, located in Salt Lake County Utah, is a highly urbanized and degraded river that has been dewatered, channelized and polluted. Five Superfund sites located on the Jordan River have been or are in the process of being remediated. In 1991 the USFWS received a $2.3 million settlement from the responsible parties of one of the Superfund sites known as the Sharon Steel Superfund site. The funds were for restoring threatened and endangered species, migratory birds and wetlands affected by the release of heavy metals from the site. In 1997, the USFWS embarked on three long term projects to restore damaged natural resources and restore 274 acres of habitat on the Jordan River. Other federal, state, municipal and nonprofit organizations including Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, West Jordan City, City of South Jordan, National Audubon Society, Great Salt Lake Audubon Society, Tree Utah and Trust for Public Lands have contributed both funds and in-kind services to match the $2.3 million with $7.4 million for a total of $9.7 million! This partnership of state and federal agencies and local organizations have begun work on properties acquired for the restoration project. Efforts are underway to contour highly erodible banks, remove nonnative invasive vegetation and to plant trees and shrubs which are native and provide quality habitats for migratory birds. As property values continue to rise, it becomes a race to acquire the remaining acreage with the secured funds and the USFWS is now looking for new partners to join the effort to preserve and protect a riparian corridor on the Jordan River. These projects represent immense planning, negotiating and vision from many agencies of various jurisdictions as well as nonprofit organizations, municipalities and private citizens which have come together to make these projects a reality. For more information on these projects, visit our web site at:

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