TriCounty Health Department and the Utah Division of Water Quality work together to ensure surface water bodies remain usable to the public for recreational activities. To ensure this, every summer we monitor the bacteria levels in popular lakes in our area. This year we want the public’s help in identifying which lakes are most used for water recreation sports including: swimming, waterskiing, wakeboarding, etc. We are not asking about fishing and boating-only activities–just activities where your head and face are likely to get wet.
Starvation, Steinaker, Red Fleet, and Flaming Gorge reservoirs have been monitored for several years. Recently we added Big Sandwash Res to our list. Heavily used sections of the Green River have also been monitored. We want to know which other lakes and reservoirs people are swimming in the most. Some ideas include: Montes Creek, Cottonwood, Brown’s Draw, Lapoint. Please take the survey on our website or through Facebook to let us know which reservoirs you think should be checked. If you’re not a computer user, you may call the Vernal EH office at 247-1160.
So what exactly are we looking for when we say ‘monitoring’? We are mostly looking for E. coli levels. It shouldn’t be a surprise to most people that lakes and streams are full of bacteria. You should never drink water out of a lake or stream unless it has been properly treated. Although there is no ‘safe’ level of bacteria, the State of Utah has determined a 30 day average of less than 126/100ml or 409/100ml maximum to be acceptable for recreation. If a lake exceeds those numbers TCHD will post danger signs and ‘close’ the beach to swimming.
In addition to E.coli, Harmful Algal Blooms have become a concern recently. We need the public’s help in identifying these Algal Blooms before they become Harmful. Although called Algal Blooms, the organisms are not actually algae, but cyanobacteria. When the cyanobacteria bloom and die off, they release toxins that are harmful to animals. Livestock and pets have died from HABs around the state. In conjunction with our E. coli monitoring, we’ll be keeping eyes on lakes for these HABs. Last year we had blooms at Matt Warner Reservoir, Montes Creek, and Upper Flaming Gorge area. Please pay attention to posted signs around lakes for Harmful Algal Blooms risks, and report any suspected blooms to the appropriate agency (DNR, Forest Service, BLM, etc.), as well as us. We will post info on our website of what HABs look like.