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“It’s Done” - Park City Abandons Gordo Soils Project

Park City Municipal

The Park City Council has abandoned plans for a soils management facility.  Some councillors believe the public backlash to the project was politically motivated.


After over three months of public uproar and government outreach about a proposal to build a soils facility along SR 248 on the eastern edge of the city, the Park City Council ended the Gordo project Thursday.


Concerns were raised in the community in May about the safety and public process behind the project, and the council responded with a 60 day public outreach period. That time culminated in a public hearing last month where nobody spoke in favor of the project.


Councilor Steve Joyce said the council had little choice but to respond to the public’s concerns and end the project.   


“I think the answer is it’s done,” Joyce said. “We won’t be building a soils repository out there. We told staff to stop that work. So now we get the question of can we start having discussions with the EPA again? I don’t have a lot of hope in that because I don’t think anything has changed since this was done three years ago and six years ago and 10 years ago. It’s the same old, same old.” 


The site was promoted as a safer and more affordable way for the city to store mine tailings excavated during construction projects. The soil contains chemicals like lead and arsenic and is found throughout much of the Old Town, Prospector, and downstream areas of Park City and is a byproduct of the city’s mining town history.


The city estimated over $17 million could have been saved over the next 10 years if the site was built, primarily through cutting the current transportation costs of taking the soil over 100 miles away to western Tooele County.


Joyce said he wished that money could have gone to other city needs like transportation or affordable housing.


There is currently a sizable amount of the soil at the site from several transportation projects in the early 2010s. Councilor Becca Gerber said the question still remains of what to do with that soil and any other soil the city digs up in the future. 


“It’s not like it’s something we can just say, ‘well, we’re not going to do anything ever’ because there’s 35,000 square feet of soil that started getting put there under [former Park City Mayor Dana Williams’] term,” Gerber said. “I guess I feel like if our community really feels that it’s this dangerous and this bad, then, you know, there was also the soils repository that’s on-site at Park City Heights. There’s lots of soil around that’s still left in our community to deal with, so one way or another, we have to have a good, calm conversation about it and figure out what the best path forward is.”


Outside experts brought in to advise on the project said it would have been a safe way for the city to handle the issue, and some councilors decried what they characterized as a misinformation campaign against the project for derailing the process.


Councilor Max Doilney called the process politically motivated and said if it wasn’t for this November’s elections, the project may not have caused such an uproar. Joyce said he agreed. 


“Yes, I definitely think that some of the things that were driving some of the misinformation were done in the mindset of affecting the election,” said Joyce.


Former City Council candidate John Greenfield told KPCW he entered the race because of this issue and called the news “mission accomplished.”


He added, “I believe my effort to stop the development of the Gordo project was significant and helpful.”


The council indicated a willingness to approach the EPA about other solutions in the area going forward.


The city will also be withdrawing its application for the site with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Park City Community Engagement Manager Linda Jager confirmed to KPCW the city is drafting a letter rescinding the application now and will be submitting it to the UDEQ next week.

Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.