Chris Bittner

Utah Division of Water Quality

Bio:

Chris is the Water Quality Standards Coordinator for the Utah Division of Water Quality. He has a B.S. in Geology and an M.S. in Environmental Toxicology. Chris joined DEQ in 1996 and has worked on Great Salt Lake issues since 2009.

Title: Water Quality Standards to Keep the Lake Great

Abstract: A healthy Great Salt Lake (GSL) provides a wide range of ecological, economical, and recreational uses. To protect these uses, the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) has been working to develop and implement GSL specific water quality standards. In 2009, Utah adopted the first numeric water quality standard in Gilbert Bay for selenium in bird eggs. Ambient egg monitoring for the last 10 years shows that selenium concentrations remain below concentrations of concern. In 2012, DWQ launched a Great Salt Lake Water Quality Strategy that includes a plan for developing additional numeric criteria for Great Salt Lake. Progress developing additional numeric criteria to date includes development of acute toxicity testing methods for brine shrimp nauplii and brine fly larvae, preliminary work on a chronic test method for brine shrimp nauplii, and the development of a GSL aquatic life use database. Acute tests have been conducted for three priority pollutants, arsenic, copper, and lead. Acute test results indicate that brine shrimp nauplii are more sensitive to these metals than brine fly larvae. Chronic toxicity tests may support the development of a Gilbert Bay specific whole-effluent toxicity test procedure for Gilbert Bay, which would enhance the protections provided by DWQ’s existing GSL discharge permitting program. In Farmington and Bear River Bays, additional studies to characterize the benthic macroinvertebrate and fish communities have been recently completed or are currently underway. These studies address key data gaps for developing numeric criteria identified by the 2013 Great Salt Lake Aquatic Life Use Workshop. Resident taxa documented in the aquatic life use survey can be used to adjust existing national freshwater criteria for application to the unique bays of GSL.

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Why We Care

  • We should bill the lake for what it is—a place of grandeur and solitude, which nourishes our thoughts and heightens our sensitivity to nature. Seen in that light, the brine flies become a fascinating curiosity more than an annoyance. The Great Salt Lake offers a wilderness experience, not a beach party, and no amount of promotion and development will change that.

    Dean L. May, Images of the Great Salt Lake