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FISH `MONITORS’ HELP ALERT DISTRICT TO WATER PROBLEMS

SHARE FISH `MONITORS’ HELP ALERT DISTRICT TO WATER PROBLEMS

Akin to the practice of placing canaries in coal mines to monitor methane gas buildup, fish are helping the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District ascertain whether Jordan River water is safe.

The fish, which live in a tank in the lower level of Jordan Narrows Pump Station, help alert water officials to hazardous or toxic substances in the river.The pumping station is west of I-15 and railway lines that run adjacent to the river. "You might say there's a greater potential for a toxic or hazardous-waste spill here than in any other area," said conservancy district Manager Dave Ovard.

The fish tank is monitored by an infrared scanner, which alerts water managers if the fish's body temperature drops suddenly.

If the fish die, any number of things could be wrong. There may be a hazardous spill in the river, the water may contain disease-carriers or the fish may have simply lived their life span.

Whatever the case, the fish tank is one tool the district is experimenting with as a check for possible contamination. The safety checks enable the district to shut off its pumps immediately if the water is contaminated or buy time to determine the best treatment strategy.

"We're very concerned about toxic waste or a hazardous spill. If you have a toxic spill, of course we'd want to shut down the pumps real quick," Ovard said.