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Health department begins data collection at Midway sanitation ponds

The Heber Valley Special Services District's sewage treatment ponds in Midway.
Rob Winder
The Heber Valley Special Services District's sewage treatment ponds in Midway.

Scientists are at work tracking potential health risks at wastewater treatment ponds in the Heber Valley. Data collection will run through next summer.

For years, Midway residents who live near the Heber Valley Special Service District (HVSSD) have said the smell of the wastewater treatment ponds has harmed their health and quality of life.

Now, progress is underway to learn more about the science behind the stench.

Late this winter, state toxicologist Alejandra Maldonado hosted a listening session to hear residents’ concerns. Her team is conducting a risk assessment for hydrogen sulfide, a toxin with a rotten egg smell that can cause symptoms like headaches and fatigue. Human waste is one source of the toxin.

On Thursday, Maldonado returned to Midway to give an update on the risk assessment.

“We’ve deployed some hydrogen sulfide monitors that’ll be collecting data throughout July and August,” she said.

She said she would also like to add a third hydrogen sulfide monitor in Midway’s Fox Den neighborhood and invites any residents willing to host a monitor to fill out a form on the project website.

Data collection will run through this summer and again next year from about mid-April through mid-July, weather permitting.

At February’s public meeting, Maldonado emphasized her team’s role is to provide expertise on potential environmental hazards. It will be up to the HVSSD and the Wasatch County Health Department to act on the state’s recommendations.

Outside of the scope of Maldonado’s assessment, more information is also now available in response to residents’ concerns about potential impacts on water quality from the treatment ponds. The Utah Division of Water Quality has shared the results of its inspection of the HVSSD.

It says the service district’s wastewater treatment is in compliance and groundwater in the Heber Valley is “pristine.” The division also noted that “odors are a common occurrence in wastewater treatment.”

Maldonado said she welcomes questions from residents as data collection continues. More information about the HVSSD risk assessment is available on the project website.

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