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State environmental officials say soil piles behind Park City school need to move

Construction at McPolin Elementary school took place in July before work was ordered to stop.
Leslie Thatcher
The soil piles behind Treasure Mountain Junior High were formed with dirt from construction at nearby McPolin Elementary (pictured).

A letter from Utah Department of Environmental Quality to the Park City School District last month said the soil piles behind Treasure Mountain Junior High meet the definition of “solid waste,” and “require the removal to a permitted solid waste disposal facility.”

Park City School District Board President Andrew Caplan said last week they’re waiting to get instructions on how to move the contaminated soil behind Treasure Mountain Junior High from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

“To date, [the DEQ] still cannot tell us that they want us to move the soil,” Caplan said.

A DEQ spokesperson called those comments “inaccurate.”

A letter from DEQ to the district last month outlined that the soil piles meet their definition of “solid waste,” and “require the removal to a permitted solid waste disposal facility.”

The DEQ reached that determination after testing the soil piles in July.

The school district was notified by the DEQ late last year, in a separate letter that said Utah code requires special permission to store piles of dirt like those behind Treasure Mountain Junior High longer than 90 days. The piles have been there in some form since 2018.

The DEQ letter also notified the district that it was violating Park City’s soils ordinance.

The soil contains heightened levels of lead, a remnant of Park City’s mining era. Lead is dangerous when ingested through eating or drinking, but trace amounts in airborne dust aren’t considered a health risk, according to DEQ.

The lack of compliance was highlighted in an audit published last week by the Legislative Auditor General. Auditors said the school district has a “deficiency in governance,” and recommended internal controls to ensure future oversight of contaminated soils.

The school district is required to comply not just with city and state codes but also with soil handling guidelines laid out in a 2017 environmental covenant. That’s a contract between the school district and agencies including the federal Environmental Protection Agency. School district COO Mike Tanner previously told KPCW no one knew about the covenant due to staff turnover.

Caplan told KPCW last week the school district is waiting on the DEQ for instruction on how to move forward with the soil piles.

The DEQ spokesperson said it is waiting for the school district to provide a sampling report and a management plan detailing how and where the soil will be moved.

The school district has estimated that moving the soil will cost around $3 million.