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Facts

OOOhhhoooh that smell!

Many who occupy the Wasatch Front complain about the rotten egg smell that occasionally wafts across their nostrils, especially when a northwest wind is afoot. What causes that smell? Most hyper-saline environments favor bacterial sulfate reduction and one of the byproducts is hydrogen sulfide—the culprit that smells like rotten eggs. In addition to hyper-salinity, GSL sports a relatively low water depth and low oxygen levels. This creates an environment where aerobic (non-smelly, oxygen using) bacteria quickly run out of available oxygen and the population balance swings to anaerobic (smelly) bacteria in order to decompose available organic matter (waste) without the use of oxygen. However, we wish that was all that was involved in the lake's smell. Sewage facilities on GSL unload their processing effluent into the lake. Researchers found that Farmington Bay specifically has far more productivity (i.e., algae and bacteria) than any of the other bays around GSL. That means bacteria have to work overtime to decompose effluent nutrients in addition to bird, brine fly, and brine shrimp waste! Thank goodness that the brine shrimp and fly populations peak around mid-May to consume as much algae and bacteria as they do, or the potential smell during the summer months would be unbearable. Yay brine shrimp! Suggestions have been made to attempt diluting the overflow of sewage to help lessen the smell and bolster tourism. Even then, there would be residual (though probably not as overwhelming) smell from brine fly pupae casings, brine shrimp and decaying algae that are continually washed up on the shore in enormous decomposing piles and are made worse with the heat.