Trump freeze on EPA grants? Algae study, other research could feel impacts

[USA] Federal environmental grant applications across Utah are in limbo — at least for now — given multiple reports that the Trump administration ordered a temporary freeze on any new grants or contracts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A University of Utah researcher proposing to study the cause of algal blooms at Utah Lake and what methods might work to best detect the problem at an earlier stage is now worried the $760,000 research grant is in jeopardy.

Algae is seen floating by the shore of Utah Lake at Lincoln Beach, west of Spanish Fork, on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, where public health officials are monitoring the state of an algal bloom that has forced the closure of the lake.

The grant application was submitted two weeks ago to the EPA for money to carry out a detailed analysis on the problem, which reached an unprecedented size and duration last summer in the July heat.

Ramesh Goel, a professor in the university’s civil and environmental engineering department, said the three-year research project would probe the causes of bloom formation and develop new tools for earlier detection, as well as enhanced prediction methods.

Fish remains are seen among algae floating by the shore of Utah Lake at Lincoln Beach, west of Spanish Fork, on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, where public health officials are monitoring the state of an algal bloom that has forced the closure of the lake.

“Utah Lake is a local problem, but it is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the western United states,” he said. Harmful algal blooms have impacted many of the nation’s waterways, such as Florida’s coastline, and are causing problems in China and elsewhere around the globe, he added.

Goel said the research, in collaboration with Brigham Young University and Auburn University in Alabama, was designed with Utah Lake as the model, but its findings would have been applicable elsewhere.

Last summer, an algal bloom outbreak persisted for weeks at Utah Lake, covering nearly 90 percent of its surface and prompting hundreds of calls to the Utah Poison Control Center by concerned residents.

Algae is seen floating by the shore of Utah Lake at Lincoln Beach, west of Spanish Fork, on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, where public health officials are monitoring the state of an algal bloom that has forced the closure of the lake.

The toxins produced by the outbreak of cyanobacteria at Utah Lake also spread to the Jordan River, leading to worries over contamination of secondary water supplies used to irrigate crops, lawns, pastures and gardens. The lake, marina and associated beaches were posted off-limits due to public health concerns over exposure to the cyanobacteria, which had extremely high counts of toxins that affect the liver and nervous system.

While Utah is carrying out its own research efforts, infused with a $1 million emergency grant from the Utah Water Quality Board, federal funding from agencies like the EPA can often augment locally driven studies.

In the environmental arena, the state of Utah and federal partners like the EPA routinely combine funds in multiyear research projects, including a wintertime ozone analysis in the Uinta Basin and a new effort to probe the chemistry and meteorology at play in the state’s inversions of fine particulate matter.

 

Photo: Birds fly along the shore of Utah Lake at Lincoln Beach, west of Spanish Fork, on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, where public health officials are monitoring the state of an algal bloom that has forced the closure of the lake.

View original article at: Trump freeze on EPA grants? Algae study, other research could feel impacts

 

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