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Poison Creek Water Flows Will Change


Residents who like to walk along the Poison Creek Trail are going to notice a reduction in the water level of the creek in a little over two years.

That’s the result of a water agreement Park City made with the state seven years ago.

But Poison Creek will still exist as a seasonal stream.    Park City Council discussed the item on Thursday.     

The city has agreed that by January 1st of 2024, all of the water draining from the Judge Tunnel, up in the Empire Canyon area, will be diverted by a pipeline to the Three Kings Water Treatment Plant.

At that point, the water will no longer be going down Empire Creek.    Empire Creek runs down under the Main Street area, and at Heber Avenue, joins up with Silver Creek to form what is popularly known as Poison Creek.

Some local residents have hoped that the stream in Poison Creek could remain.    The Park City Council heard from a few of them Thursday night.

Council member Steve Joyce said he understands the affection that Parkites have for a water feature in town.    But he said the city has a strong commitment to the environment.

He said Judge Tunnel water would have to be treated before it could be returned to the creek.   That would be complicated, expensive and involve a lot of water.   

“If you look at the amount of water flowing down that creek right now, it’s about 900 gallons a minute, which is about a million gallons a day.  And so, when we talk about what we would have to do, we would literally have to treat the water to stream standards, which oddly enough are more rigid than drinking water standards, and actually treat it that well, and then pump it back up there. 
And a million gallons a day is about full-bore for a golf course, only it’s a year-round thing.   And so, hey, I know everybody likes a creek running through town.  We always joke about, on our Leadership Tour, about everybody else has a river.  We don’t have a river.  But a million gallons a day---man!”

In the summer of 2014, Park City entered into a Stipulated Compliance Order with the Utah Division of Water Quality in order to treat water from both the Judge Tunnel and the Spiro Tunnel.

Joyce talked to KPCW Friday about the background for that agreement.      

“The bottom line is that from Judge Tunnel, you’ve got a lot of water coming out that’s going through the mines.   It’s full of all sorts of different types of metals.   And the EPA wasn’t terribly happy about that.   And so as part of the Clean Water Act, we aren’t allowed to dump that water into the creek anymore.  So a couple years ago, we built a pipeline that runs from Judge all the way over to the new Three Kings water treatment plant.  But while that water treatment plant’s being built, we’re letting the water flow in.”

He said that the EPA granted an exemption to allow the water into Empire Creek, and then Poison Creek, during the construction of the treatment plant.

When the Three Kings plant comes on line in 2024, it will be able to treat the water from the Judge and Spiro tunnels in compliance with drinking water standards.

Joyce said the Poison Creek drainage isn’t going away.        

“The creek will still flow.   It’s not that it’ll dry out forever.  It’ll go back to what it was back in 2012, 2013, which is a seasonal creek.  When the snow’s melting, it’ll run probably July, August.  If we’re having a dry one, it’ll dry out.”

Park City Council Member Steven Joyce.


Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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