Park City Soils Panel Draws Strong Rebuke From Summit County Councilor
Tuesday night’s community panel about the proposed soils repository along SR 248 drew a number of comments from the community questioning the health risks of a site inside Park City and an impassioned rebuttal to the proposal from a sitting member of the Summit County Council.
Park City Municipal claims the city is exploring building a contaminated soils site inside city limits as a way to address the issue of widespread soil contamination throughout much of the city in a fiscally and environmentally responsible way. The contaminated soil found in Park City is the byproduct of the city’s days as a mining town in the 19th and 20th centuries.
According to the city’s project summary, the site would be lined with an industrial plastic liner. Once built, it could house roughly 120,000 cubic yards of soil from the proposed arts and culture district, future city and resident projects, and the 35,000 cubic yards of soil already at the site. The city estimates the facility will only be operational for seven to 10 years and will then be capped with fresh soil.
During the meeting, Summit County Councilor and Park City resident Roger Armstrong spoke for nearly 20 minutes and called into question the project’s motivations, timeline of events, and transparency.
“The crux of the problem here is that the city is functioning as a developer,” Armstrong said. “If this were the PEG Companies coming to the city saying ‘we want to dig up this soil and we’d like to bury it here in town,’ you’d say haul it to Tooele. Andy [Beerman] has said we’re not taking commercial waste, this is only for Park City. Our moral issue of not trucking more dirt out, our moral issue of the tailpipes isn’t really a moral issue if every other commercial developer from Deer Valley to Park City Mountain Resort has to still truck it to Tooele.”
Armstrong’s comments came in response to Park City Councilor Steve Joyce, who was on Tuesday’s panel and made the case that the current proposal is the best option the city has seen in decades.
“This is the safest soil solution that the town has ever had, and so that’s why from a city council standpoint, we feel good about this,” said Joyce. “Do we need to dot all the i’s, cross all the t’s? Hell yeah. But if you turn around and say, well, leave the dirt where it is, guess what? It’s dirt that’s leaching into your water system right now ... Anyway, I think that’s part of the reason that we’re maybe less concerned is every alternative that’s been done over the last couple of decades is worse and this is the best thing that Park City has ever seen proposed for this. The safest. The healthiest.”
Joyce clarified that soil leaching into Park City’s ground and spring water is minimal in most cases, with the exception of the Spiro Tunnel.
Currently, contaminated soil is trucked to a facility in Tooele County in the far western desert of Utah. The city estimates transportation savings in the neighborhood of $17 million if a site is constructed in Park City.
Armstrong also argued the soils project is only being discussed because of the city’s pending proposal for an arts and culture district. The district at the corner of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive is within the city’s soils ordinance boundary and roughly 60,000 cubic yards of soil from the project is planned to be stored at the future facility.
Park City Deputy City Manager David Everitt said placing the blame on the arts and culture district is not accurate because the other half of the facility would be filled with soil from other sources.
“The Gordo facility is one that is not about the arts and culture district per se, and I know you said that, that’s not necessarily an accurate way to characterize this,” Everitt said. “We’ve got 35,000 cubic yards on site that were always intended to be temporarily stored there while a permanent solution was found. This is the proposed permanent solution so that we’re doing it, as the councilmember said, in a safe and responsible manner.”
Armstrong disagreed and said if that was the city’s true intention, there would have been more exploration of alternate options like soil separation and increased soil testing to determine whether or not the soil could even be stored at a site only intended for mine tailings, also known as “Bevill exempt” soil.
“But you haven’t done the work on that because it would take too long for you to start the arts and culture district,” he said. “We’ll circle all the way back around to it: this is about the arts and culture district. This is not about toxic soils. This is not about city projects.”
Park City’s application for the facility is pending approval by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. The UDEQ has told KPCW they will not be releasing any public comment on the application until after Park City’s 60-day outreach period ends in mid-July.
Park City Municipal has additional community outreach events planned for June 25th and July 13th prior to a public hearing on the project before the city council on July 15th.