Two Blooms | Urban Living
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Two Blooms

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There are two kinds of blooms this time of year in Utah. One is the brilliant colors of wildflowers in Alpine meadows; the other is the nasty algae showing up in our lakes. Let's start with the former.

High-altitude meadows in our section of the Rocky Mountains are flush in flowers right now. The peak blooming season is over by the end of July. Those of us near the capital city drive above the Alta Ski Resort to Albion Basin to view nature's beauty there because it's fast and accessible. Props to Alta Community Enrichment for creating the Wasatch Wildflower Festival held July 21 and 22 in Big Cottonwood Canyon and July 28 and 29 in Little Cottonwood Canyon. There are suggested trails, so you can take yourself on a little stroll or join a scheduled three-hour hike with trained wildflower guides. The variety of wildflowers that grow here is astonishing. There's Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Fireweed, Mountain Pennyroyal, Larkspur, Columbine and so much more. Each flower hike is rated for kids, beginners, intermediate and advanced hikers based on time and difficulty of trails.

Now for the bad bloom. Toxic algae are spreading across our waterways. Simple plants known as cyanobacteria are turning lakes here weird colors because the algae that exist in the water seems like it is on some kind of plant crack and they are growing like crazy—especially in the hot weather. This is extremely bad for all of us because the tainted water kills animals and humans who might accidentally ingest it. These "blooms" are often caused by nutrient pollution of nitrogen and phosphorus, activated by the sun in slow moving water. Those substances have been added to nearby farms and homes to fertilize crops and have run through the storm water into the waterways. Blooms can also come from wastewater, fossil fuel runoff and electric power generation. They kill fish because the algae release toxins into the water. If your dogs run up to get a drink, they'll become ill or die.

If the surface looks green, scummy or smells bad, get outta there! In the past two months there have been toxic blooms reported at Provo Bay, Lincoln Marina, Sandy Beach, Utah Lake State Park and parts of the Jordan River. Last year, the Utah Poison Control Center had 173 cases of human and animal algae bloom poisonings. It's weird-looking stuff and you naturally want to go up and look at it and poke at it. Don't. This bloom can harm you, your kids and your pets.