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EPA may step in to remove soil piles at Treasure Mountain Junior High

Contaminated soil piles behind Treasure Mountain Junior High (outlined in red). Relocating the soil piles could cost the Park City School District millions of dollars.
Office of the Legislative Auditor General
Contaminated soil piles behind Treasure Mountain Junior High (outlined in red). It's estimated relocating the soil piles will cost the Park City School District around $2 million.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it plans to step in and remove soil piles from a Park City school campus if district officials cannot provide an approved plan to do it.

In a letter to the Park City School District this month, a Utah Department of Environmental Quality site assessment manager said the EPA plans to remove the soil piles from Treasure Mountain Junior High next year if the district is unable to.

The agency required the school district to submit a “Materials Management Plan,” or MMP, Monday or face enforcement measures. A representative from the EPA confirmed the plan was received, but said it did not include a “proposed timeline for removing and properly disposing” of the piles.

The site assessment manager said they are reviewing that plan, which will determine if the EPA needs to step in next year. He said ideally the school district will remove the soil by the end of the year.

The EPA spokesperson said the agency is “monitoring the situation closely to determine if it will be necessary to use any federal authorities in the future.”

The MMP was originally due on Jan. 9, 2023. At that time, the school district requested a 90-day extension and received it, but did not meet that deadline either.

The MMP is a detailed plan describing the removal and disposal of the soil piles. It also calls for routine inspections and for the school district to keep teachers, students, parents, and the community informed about any construction activity involving the piles.

Park City School District spokesperson Heidi Matthews said the district plans to move the soil to an approved landfill without the help of the EPA, although that is contingent on government approval of the MMP.

Matthews would not provide a timeline for when the soil will be removed, but said it would be based on cost efficiency and occur when students and the community are least impacted.

The soil piles in question were stored behind Treasure Mountain Junior High as part of two capital projects at McPolin Elementary over the past six years. Placing the soil there violated Park City code and a covenant the school district signed with the EPA, according to the state letter.

School district COO Mike Tanner previously told KPCW no one knew about the covenant due to staff turnover.

The soil contains heightened levels of lead and arsenic, a remnant of Park City’s mining era.

Matthews confirmed the school district asked Utah Sen. Mitt Romney for assistance finding grants that could help to pay for the soil removal. A contractor’s assessment estimated moving the soil will cost around $2 million. Matthews said the costs are dependent on approval of the MMP. If the EPA moves the soil, it will charge the school district for the removal. The EPA spokesperson said the cost could be comparable to the school district’s estimate, although typically the agency’s costs are higher.

The school district plans to host two town halls at the beginning of November about the soil piles. The Spanish language town hall will be Nov. 8 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Treasure Mountain Junior High Library. The English town hall will be Nov. 9 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Treasure Mountain Junior High cafeteria. Both meetings will be available online at pcschools.us.