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Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District

Proposed UPDES Permit to Discharge to Great Salt Lake: History


In 2004, the State of Utah Natural Resource Damages Trustee (NRD Trustee), Kennecott Utah Copper (Kennecott), and the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District (Jordan Valley) entered into an agreement for a joint water treatment project to clean up groundwater contaminated by historic mining operations in the southwestern Salt Lake Valley. Kennecott agreed to construct and operate a reverse osmosis treatment plant for the Zone A sulfate plume and partially fund construction of a second reverse osmosis plant to treat water in the Zone B plume. This second water treatment plant would be owned and operated by Jordan Valley Water and would treat contaminated deep aquifer groundwater in Zone B as well as shallow groundwater unaffected by mining activities.

Reverse Osmosis PlantJordan Valley requested and received approval in 2003 to discharge byproduct from the reverse osmosis treatment of deep aquifer groundwater into the Jordan River. The permit was later withdrawn by Jordan Valley with a request to study discharge alternatives and to allow for additional time for Great Salt Lake water quality studies.

In the interim, the Jordan River was classified as impaired based on Utah Water Quality Standards for total dissolved solids (TDS) and could no longer be considered as a discharge recipient for waters that exceed a TDS concentration of 1,200 micrograms per liter (mg/L). During this time, the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) completed the Great Salt Lake Selenium Study and established a tissue-based numeric standard for selenium for the Great Salt Lake in 2008.

In 2010, Jordan Valley submitted a Utah Pollution Discharge Elimination System (UPDES) permit application which requested approval to discharge byproduct water into Gilbert Bay of the Great Salt Lake and untreated shallow groundwater to the Jordan River. DWQ hosted a public information meeting on the permit application on March 22, 2010. The 60 day public comment period for the draft permit ran from December 1, 2010 to February 1, 2011, with a public hearing on the permit held on January 4, 2011. The typical public comment period for UPDES permits is 30 days, but DWQ determined that the complexity of the permit and the high public interest warranted a longer comment period.

DWQ received an unprecedented number of comments, totaling 150 pages, from 50 individuals and organizations on the draft permit. On May 9, 2012, a 31-page Comment Response Summary was sent to those who commented on the 2010 draft. After a lengthy review and analysis of the comments submitted, DWQ determined it needed to make substantive changes to the 2010 draft permit and Statement of Basis. The permit has since been revised to include supporting information for the determination of the effluent limits in the byproduct discharge and additional monitoring requirements in the transitional waters of Gilbert Bay for selenium and mercury. The permit includes a reopener provision if new information resulting from effluent monitoring and study data indicates that these effluent limits need to be revised.

For additional information on the Southwest Jordan Valley Groundwater Project, please visit the Kennecott Project Web page.