Health Advisory Panel

The Utah Division of Water Quality and the Utah Department of Health have organized a Water Quality Health and Advisory Panel whose objectives are to coordinate and communicate on water quality issues associated with specific public health concerns.

The primary current focus of the Panel will be coordination around E. coli, mercury, and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). However, we expect that other issues may arise in the future which would be appropriate for the Panel to address.

The panel requires dissolution and consolidation of the existing E. coli workgroup, Mercury workgroup, and ad hoc HABs workgroup. Combining these groups into a single advisory panel will be more efficient by eliminating overlap among members of the workgroup. Also, it will help ensure that solutions to these interrelated problems are more consistent.

Goals and Objectives

All water quality problems are multifaceted and this is particularly true for those with the potential to affect human health. The new panel will have two primary goals. First, the panel will facilitate interagency coordination and communication. The second goal is to ensure that the monitoring, assessment and response to water quality problems related to health effects are based on sound science; hence the panel membership will be comprised of individuals with a breadth of expertise and experience. While the primary focus of the panel is human health, the Panel will consider effects of these contaminants on all beneficial uses including aquatic life and agriculture.

The objectives of the panel include several generic objectives as well as issue specific objectives.

  • Develop or refine, as necessary, water quality indicators, monitoring strategies, and assessment methods related to water quality issues that have human health implications. Work with DWQ’s Water Quality Standards workgroup on numeric standards, as appropriate.
  • Develop consistent statewide policies outlining actions to be taken if/when indicators suggest threats to recreation and drinking water uses as well as threats to wildlife, livestock, and pets.
  • Further develop the fish consumption advisory methodology, specifically how to manage annual variability of mercury concentrations at a waterbody and when to remove an advisory if the data indicate there is no longer a public health risk.
  • Communicate a unified message regarding public health risks associated with specific events based on a comprehensive review of the data and relevant literature.
  • Develop and refine field and laboratory Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Sample Analysis Plans (SAPs) and related data management and analytical methods.
    • Review and communicate technical information about E. coli, mercury and Harmful Algal Blooms monitoring results.
    • Develop prioritization criteria for future sampling of water bodies across the state for health related concerns including E. coli, mercury, and harmful algae.
    • Disperse training information to local partners and provide regional training (e.g. IDEXX).
  • Review public information materials, including fact sheets, pamphlets, advisory notices, and website content to inform the public about health advisories and closures of recreational waters.
  • Identify and prioritize research to better understand risks to human health, livestock, and wildlife, or to solve water quality problems that are currently known.


Members of this panel were selected through a nomination process in Spring 2015. We envision the WQHAP to work as currently configured for 3 years (until 2018) at which time we will revisit whether the make-up of membership slots is appropriate and provide opportunities for new participants to replace some of the current panel members. In the meantime, as always, we encourage all stakeholders and partners to attend our panel meetings, contribute to the discussion, and review the documents that are developed as part of this process.

Stakeholder Group or Organization Individual
Co-Chair, Division of Water Quality, DEQ James Harris (, Assistant Director, DWQ
Co-Chair, Environmental Epidemiology Division, UDOH Nathan LaCross (, Epidemiologist, DOH
Division of Drinking Water, DEQ Janet Lee, Rules Section
Utah Public Health Laboratory, UDOH Robyn Atkinson, Director UPHL
Division of Wildlife Resources, DNR Drew Cushing, Aquatic Section Chief
Division of State Parks, DNR Ty Hunter, Boating Program Coordinator
Fish Health Expertise Anna Forest, Fish Health Specialist, UDAF
Veterinary Professional Chris Crnich, Field Veterinarian, UDAF
Local Health Department (Urban) Louis Cooper, Weber-Morgan Health Department
Local Health Department (Rural) Jason Garrett, Utah County Health Department
US Fish and Wildlife Service Chris Cline, Ecological Services, USFWS
US Geological Survey Scott Hynek, Hydrologist, USGS
US EPA Sandi Spence, Region 8, EPA
National Park Service Mark Anderson, Aquatic Ecologist, NPS
Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC) Barbara Crouch, Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC)
Epidemiologist Cindy Burnett, UDOH, Bureau of Epidemiology
Ecologist/limnologist Wayne Wurtsbaugh, Watershed Sciences, USU
Theron Miller, Jordan River/Farmington Bay Water Quality Council
Sarah Rushforth, Rushforth Phycology
Public Health Expertise Jim VanDerslice, Associate Professor, University of Utah
Boating/Fishing Recreation Interests Paul Dremman, Utah Anglers Coalition
Environmental Interests Melissa Stamp, Provo River Mitigation Commission
Drinking Water Utilities Interests Michelle Deras, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District
Publically Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) Lee Rawlings, South Valley Water Reclamation District
Agricultural Interests Joel Ferry, Little Mountain Cattle Co.
Mining and Industry Interests Jeff Davis, Cardno


Meetings will typically be held once in the spring and once in the winter, though the group may need to meet for frequently at the outset. The Utah Department of Health has agreed to co-chair the panel with DWQ. The panel is staffed by DWQ program coordinators including Ellen Bailey ( (E. coli), Benjamin Holcomb ( (Harmful Algal Blooms), and Amy Dickey ( (Mercury).

Contact Information

For more information about this group please contact: