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Investigation of illegal disposal in stormwater system underway

An investigation is underway for illegal dumping into a storm water drain in Prospector.
Elizabeth C. Waters - stock.adobe.com
An investigation is underway for illegal dumping into a storm water drain in Prospector.

The investigation is a joint effort involving Park City Municipal and the Summit County Health Dept.

Last week, someone dumped a bucket of unknown substances into one of the storm water grates located in Prospector. Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District General Manager Mike Luers says while that’s something the district would be able to handle if it was dumped into the sewer system, it’s illegal to deliberately dispose of unwanted grease or other materials in either the sewer or stormwater systems.

“The sewer system or the wastewater system is a closed system goes from the plumbing in your home to pipes, and it goes all the way to the wastewater treatment facilities,” Luers explained. “Stormwater, on the other hand, are those catch basins you see on the edge of the roads, out in front of your home, and that's where the rainwater and snowmelt goes.”

The investigation is a joint effort involving Park City Municipal and the Summit County Health Dept.

Liz Lagoy is Park City’s stormwater coordinator. She says they were alerted to the problem after a report of someone dumping a bucket into the storm drain. She says after speaking with many parties doing business in the area, they learned it was a bucket of mop water, which is still concerning and illegal.

“I think some restaurants think it’s okay, just because it's, 'water,' but there's a lot of food debris, trash, grease in the mop bucket," Lagoy said. "So that's, that's our big thing. And that's what we found in our investigation – the issue was actually mop bucket water. But when someone sees anyone dumping a bucket into the storm drain, it's concerning and is hopefully reported to us. The storm drains go directly into our creeks. So obviously, we don't want that happening.”

They learned the restaurant didn’t have operating floor drains, which is where the water should have been dumped. The drains are being fixed, so this was a temporary infraction but still not allowed. Municipal code, Lagoy says, allows the city to go after the responsible party for cleanup costs. And luckily, she says the illegal dump is still in the storm drain and hasn’t flowed into the nearby creek.

When toxic or hard-to-remove substances are poured down sinks or flushed down toilets, Luers says it affects the district’s ability to treat the culinary water efficiently.

“Occasionally, we'll see a large amount of some type of toxic material get into the sewer system," Luers said. "And when that arrives at the treatment plant, it starts killing, what we call bugs, it's our micro-organisms that treat the wastewater. And if enough of a toxic compound enters a wastewater system, you can actually completely wipe out and kill, so to speak, the wastewater treatment plant, and then raw sewage would be on our local streams. So, we take that very, very seriously.”

But when toxic chemicals are put into the stormwater system, he says that eventually makes it into drinking water supply for people downstream.

“Anytime you wash your car, you use salt, it's going to end up in the local stream," Luers said. "And we do see very high levels of salt in our local streams, especially during the winter in late winter, when those salts melt. And that is a very big problem. Over the years, we've seen the level of salt in the wastewater and in the local streams increasing.”

Lagoy says restaurants should have a disposal method, like large barrels, that cooking oil can be poured into and later picked up for recycling. Mop water should go into the sanitary sewer system or into an industrial sink at the place of business.

Anything that shouldn’t get into the stormwater or waste water systems, however, should be set aside and brought to the twice-a-year hazardous household collection days where the substances can be disposed of property. The next one is happening Saturday, Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cabriolet parking lot at the base of Canyons Village.