Record snow and longer ski season keep people in town for April
Visitation numbers for the month of April, which typically drop way off once the ski resorts close, were way up this year.
The Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District calculates a monthly “flush index” for the purpose of estimating the number of visitor nights in the Park City/Snyderville Basin area. For April, the district’s executive director Mike Luers says they saw those numbers jump 26% from last year.
“I suspect that’s probably because we had good snow and people were still here," Luers said.
Meanwhile despite some anecdotal evidence that COVID-19 numbers were going back up, Luers says the numbers are actually decreasing statewide. Both water treatment facilities in the Park City area are checked for the SARS virus twice a week. Luers added the testing has proved to be so reliable, he expects it will expand.
“In the future, we anticipate what we call wastewater-based epidemiology to become more of a common practice for other viruses besides the COVID-19 virus," Luers explained. "There are a number of what we call viral panels being tested. And this is where you take wastewater and you apply it to a panel and you can check for a whole host of various viruses. Those are in the beta stage right now and as the costs come down, I suspect CDC will ask wastewater utilities across the country to participate.”
Future testing, he says, could include anything from hepatitis to polio to influenza.
The district continues to grapple with high water flows coming through the treatment plants.
“Our East Canyon facility this past week was running about 200% of design,” Luers said. “So, we're running around 10 million gallons a day. And we estimated that about 75% of that is from clean water getting into the system. Some of that is coming in through our manhole covers. And certainly, we're getting a significant quantity from sump pumps.”
He says that clean water can threaten the treatment process, which relies on a sophisticated mixture of water, food waste and bacteria.
“We're having to take special procedures in the treatment process because there's not enough food to feed our bacteria,” Luers explained. “That's part of the treatment process. So, we're having to do some pretty unusual treatment process modifications to make it work. So yes, it's, it's been a real problem for us.”
The district continues to offer a $1500 incentive to homeowners to disconnect their sump pumps from the sewer system. The district has also sent letters to plumbers doing business in Summit County telling them that sump pumps should never be connected to the waste water system – that it’s illegal and if any problems result, they could be held responsible.
Click here for information on how to have a sump pump checked to make sure it isn't connected to the sewer system.