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South Salt Lake Journal

State urges SSL to improve water quality

Dec 10, 2018 05:15PM ● By Travis Barton

If leaves, grass clippings and pet waste are not cleaned out of storm drains, they make their way into the Jordan River, depleting the water of oxygen, according to state water quality officials. (Stock photo)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

For months, if not longer, South Salt Lake officials have talked about water quality. A storm water fee was voted down by the city council in September, but December could have an important impact on the city’s water going forward. 

On Nov. 14 — to demonstrate good faith to Utah’s Division of Water Quality — the city council passed a resolution 5-0 expressing its commitment to find sustainable revenue for the city’s storm water. 

On Dec. 3, the Water Quality Board meets to consider three separate loans for SSL, Provo City and Central Valley Water. Those three will be competing against one another.  

Officials from Utah’s Division of Water Quality, from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, told city officials on Nov. 7 they found “a number of significant deficiencies,” in a November 2016 audit. 

“The Division of Water Quality has no opinion on whether you pass a storm water utility,” said Erica Gaddis, the division director. “But we do feel strongly about you coming into compliance, and to do that, you need to properly fund your program. How you do that is none of our business.” 

Gaddis said they have worked with city officials to address the issues since the audit, setting deadlines to meet certain requirements. “Many of them were contingent on a storm water utility being passed,” she said. “Though our question for the council and mayor’s office is: if you’re not doing a storm water utility and that’s not going to fund your program, what is your plan to come into compliance?”

Some compliance issues include having a well-mapped system, both for maintenance such as a scheduled cleaning plan and for a program to detect and eliminate illicit discharges — anything other than rain or snow into storm water system. 

“We need the city to be able to respond to that quickly and be able to trace and eliminate that discharge immediately or as quickly as possible,” said Jeanne Riley, section manager for storm water permitting with division of water quality.  

Another issue Riley included was a need to improve documentation for dry weather screening, storm water inspection training and storm water pollution protection plans (SWPPP) for construction sites. To do that, she said, would require more staff members. City Engineer Dennis Pay estimated they would need two additional staff members. 

Other issues mentioned were maintaining a current storm sewer map and inventory of best management practices, agreements with private property owners such as WinCo on who maintains storm water cleaning, and updating storm water city codes. 

Other cities in Utah are out of compliance, Gaddis said, but there’s a difference here. 

“There’s going 26 in a 25-mph zone and there’s going 50,” she said. “And most people are going 26.” Gaddis wouldn’t say South Salt Lake is going 50, only that SSL’s progress to compliance is much slower than other cities. 

Despite the issues, Gaddis told city officials they are impressed with Dennis Pay and Storm Water Manager Corby Talbot noting they are well-qualified, just under resourced. 

“I want to make it clear that in our opinion, it’s not because they aren’t doing their best, it appears to be deficient resources,” she said. 

Gaddis explained there are different loan options for the city to explore with the state. 

“We want to help you get there, but you need to get there,” she said.  

To demonstrate its efforts towards compliance, the city council passed its resolution in mid-November. Also at least a few councilmembers plan to attend the Water Quality Board meeting on Dec. 3. 

Adequate financing appears to be the major roadblock. Ray said without proper funding, they can’t come into compliance.