April 5, 2023
Source: The Guardian
To walk on to the Great Salt Lake, the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere which faces the astounding prospect of disappearing just five years from now, is to trudge across expanses of sand and mud, streaked with ice and desiccated aquatic life, where just a short time ago you would be wading in waist-deep water.
But the mounting sense of local dread over the lake’s rapid retreat doesn’t just come from its throttled water supply and record low levels, as bad as this is. The terror comes from toxins laced in the vast exposed lake bed, such as arsenic, mercury and lead, being picked up by the wind to form poisonous clouds of dust that would swamp the lungs of people in nearby Salt Lake City, where air pollution is often already worse than that of Los Angeles, potentially provoking a myriad of respiratory and cancer-related problems.
This looming scenario, according to Ben Abbott, an ecologist at Brigham Young University, risks “one of the worst environmental disasters in modern US history”, surpassing the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania in 1979 and acting like a sort of “perpetual Deepwater Horizon blowout”.