August 24, 2023 — This past week saw a number of newsworthy stories about Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
Dust Dilemma and Air Quality Challenges.
Axios reports that a recent NASA DEVELOP technical report highlighted the troubling amount of dust emanating from the Great Salt Lake’s exposed lakebed. Such dust is predicted to profoundly affect the residents of Salt Lake City’s west side and Tooele County. The western parts of Salt Lake Valley are already grappling with poor air quality, courtesy of pollutants from freeways, refineries, railroads, and the expanding Salt Lake City International Airport. Consequently, residents in these areas are reportedly facing elevated asthma rates and heightened health risks due to pollution. Acknowledging these challenges, the EPA has granted Salt Lake City a $1 million boost for enhancing air quality. This decision comes in the wake of an environmental justice study specifically targeting the city’s west side. Expect this study to be available to the public later this month.
Salinity Spike and the Risk to Marine Life.
The Nation revealed that following the Great Salt Lake’s low water levels, the lake witnessing its most concentrated salt levels ever. This makes the lake increasingly inhospitable to life. While climate change shares a portion of the blame for the lake’s state, overuse of its resources is a significant factor. The Great Salt Lake Strike Force Team, a consortium of academics and governmental representatives, emphasized this in their advice for the 2023 Utah Legislature session.
Mining Controversies and Legislative Reactions.
Finally, the Utah State Legislature is taking a second look at mineral extraction activities on the Great Salt Lake, particularly in light of urgent needs to address the lake’s dwindling water levels. Fox 13 reported a brewing conflict between the state and Compass Minerals, a leading mineral extraction company. At a pivotal meeting, the Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands claimed that Compass Minerals was involved in unauthorized lithium extraction. The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District voiced apprehensions about the amount of water usage, given the pressing need to rejuvenate the Great Salt Lake’s levels and avert an impending ecological disaster. However, Compass Minerals stands firm in its stance according to Fox 13. Through a letter to the Utah State Legislature’s water development commission, the company’s chief defended their operations, stating that they’ve maintained transparency and have acted within their legitimate rights for lithium extraction.