With population growth continually creeping closer to the Oquirrh Mountains, cleaning up contaminated groundwater from a century of Kennecott mining becomes increasingly critical.
A 1995 legal settlement led to establishment of a multi-million dollar trust fund by Kennecott to pay for ongoing cleanup of the huge tainted aquifers. But how should it be done?
In KSL’s view, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as Trustee of the cleanup funds, made the correct decision last year to withdraw a proposal that included the release of contaminants into the Jordan River.
Now, DEQ is accepting public comment on a revised proposal. It includes the possibility of discharging the contaminants, especially selenium, into the Great Salt Lake. The latest proposal features a planned two-year scientific study of selenium, a copper mining by-product, in the Great Salt Lake.
Let the study be undertaken, but any eventual discharge of selenium into the vast lake should only be allowed if it doesn’t adversely impact the lake with its vital wetlands and waterfowl protection areas.
In the end, the thirsty Salt Lake Valley could use potable water gleaned from the contaminated aquifers. Finding the best way to make it available without creating other environmental problems is the challenge facing the stakeholders, including Kennecott and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.