Public officials have closed the lake due to concerns about cyanobacteria algae, which can release toxins that affect the brain, nervous system and liver function of people exposed to it, Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, said in a statement.
The bloom's growth is due to a combination of high temperatures, low lake levels and a higher concentration ofphosphorus, which helps algae grow, officials said. Nearly 80 percent of the phosphorus in Utah Lake comes from discharge by nearby wastewater treatment plants, according to the Utah DEQ.
"It's coming from our waste, human waste - using the bathroom," Spangler said.
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Though algae blooms occur naturally, human activity increases their intensity, frequency and scope, said Walt Baker, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality's Division of Water Quality.
"Scientific evidence suggests that people cause increasing intensity of algae blooms by modifying hydrology and increasing nutrient inputs to our waters," Baker wrote in an Op-Ed for Desert News.
Both Baker and Spangler noted that in order to limit the concentration of phosphorus, wastewater treatment plants must be upgraded - an expensive task. But with consistently warmer temperatures worldwide, Spangler said there is concern that the algae bloom will become a more common occurrence, as the algae grow faster in warmer conditions.
Original article on Live Science.
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