Test results find no evidence of mercury contamination in Fairmont Park pond, city announces

Final test results of samples taken after Saturday night’s storm are expected Sunday.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Yellow tape surrounds the Fairmont Park Pond in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Testing has revealed the potential presence of mercury.

Mayor Erin Medenhall announced that additional city testing and initial results from the Environmental Protection Agency found no contamination of mercury in Fairmont Park’s pond, after the detection of its possible presence on Wednesday.

Mendenhall, EPA federal on-scene coordinator Valeriy Bizyayev and Salt Lake City Public Utilities Director Laura Briefer held a press conference on Saturday near the park, and Bizyayev said they are awaiting the last round of tests but that they are “pretty confident” there is no mercury contamination.

On Friday, Bizyayev said that the preliminary round of test results indicated that the initial detection was likely from the tank used to store a sample of the water, not the water itself.

“We sampled throughout the park, right, both upstream of the pond and downstream — so, you know, we looked at storm drains, we looked at any points of interest that might be potential sources, you know, there was a fire within the area, there’s also active demolition,” Bizyayev said, also mentioning the instrument they used to measure mercury vapors, which only detected any presence of mercury at the tank.

“It’s probably nothing of concern right now — it was definitely far below any action level that we would be concerned at.”

The EPA collected both water and sediment samples, and the test results only showed low results at the detection limit or no detections at all, Bizyayev said. The storm on Friday night also gave the officials the opportunity to test if the weather would “agitate the scenario,” and they took an additional round of samples Saturday out of caution, and those results will be released either Sunday night or Monday morning.

“We looked at everything that we could possibly see, right out of [an] abundance of caution,” Bizyayev said. “And along with what the city pulled, right, we do feel pretty confident that there is no mercury contamination in the pond.”

Briefer thanked the EPA’s response team for their work, and said the department of Public Utilities will be investigating the cause of the initial detection. There will also be a “comprehensive flushing” of the pond system on Monday, as there is still a “little bit of sheen” on the water.

It’s a thin and light sheen, which makes it difficult to get a sample, Briefer said, but officials think that it’s likely some kind of mineral or cooking oil.

“We’re going to flush out the pond system — some of that oil appears to have gotten attracted to the vegetation in the pond and in the river system in the park, and so we want to make sure that we do flush that out so that we can eliminate the presence of that sheen in the long run.”

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