The Water Beneath our Feet

Photo courtesy of Deseret News.

Photo courtesy of Deseret News.

Bryce Rodabough, Staff Writer

Many Bingham students know that the history of the school is based off of the copper mining done in Bingham Canyon, but few know of the ecological damage done as a result, the most impactful being the water aquifer 200 feet beneath the ground we stand on.

According to Richard Bay, CEO of the Jordan Valley Conservatory District, the copper mining done by Kennecott for the past 100 years has led to the most contaminated water in the nation. Large amounts of chemical sulfate and acid have moved in underground plumes from the mouth of Bingham Canyon to the Jordan River, resulting in over fifty square miles of contaminated  water.

As a result of the contaminated water, the cities of South Jordan, Herriman, Riverton, and West Jordan are unable to drill wells for drinking water, and must instead drain water from the Jordan River, purify it, then transport it to surrounding cities.

What this means for South Jordan and the surrounding area is trouble with the Jordan River. By relying on the Jordan River for water and not wells, its levels are at risk with the lack of precipitation from the past year.

From 1986 to 1990 the state required Kennecott to do groundwater studies for contamination. After the study, Kennecott reported that the groundwater could not be cleaned up.

After the ruling, the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District claimed that the groundwater could be cleaned through the process of reverse osmosis. Federal Judge Greene allowed JVWCD to intervene.

Bay explains that since the court ruling, three major steps have been taken to curb the problem of the contaminated water.

First, they are focusing on containing the contamination sources. Then they built multiple wells to pump out the contaminated water.

To prevent spread of the contaminated water, multiple wells have been dug within and along the border of the plumes to pump out the water. By pumping out the water and purifying it, Kennecott and the JVWCD hope to contain, and reverse the spread.

According to a member of the Utah State Environmental Protection Agency, this is currenly the most significant groundwater project in the country.

“It’ll take about 100 years to reverse the damage,” speculates Bay, “but we’re on the right track.”

The work done by Richard Bay and the JVWCD has assured that local drinking water is completely safe.