Aerie water tank: the view is so good it’s criminal
April 18, 2014
It is probably the view that draws youngsters toward the top of a Park City hillside that offers a panorama of Old Town, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort.
They climb atop a waterworks facility located off the Aerie and look out at the city below them. But they should not be there, City Hall officials say. Waterworks facilities like the Masonic tank they climb onto for the views are typically seen by officials as locations that should be secure to guard against someone with ill intent getting to the drinking water system.
At the Masonic tank, located off Mellow Mountain Road, there has been a series of reports since later March of youngsters or older people atop the facility. They were not there to cause a problem with the drinking water, but the Park City Police Department has responded anyway. There have been at least 19 cases at the site since late March. There have been similar reports occasionally for years, but the number of cases in such a short time recently is unusual.
The cases continued last week. The Police Department in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday logged a report of four people on the facility. The day before, at a little bit before 3 p.m., two women were seen there. There were also reports on Thursday, when five people were seen sitting on the facility at 8:18 p.m., Tuesday and the previous Sunday.
"It’s, basically, a very attractive location for people to gather," said Clint McAffee, City Hall’s water manager, said, describing the view of Old Town and the southwest orientation toward the winter sun. "People know it’s there and tend to flock to it."
McAffee said people have gathered on the Masonic tank for decades. Some youngsters tell officials their dads climbed atop the facility years ago. He said the people found on the tank are typically teens. They might be drinking beer and hanging out, McAffee said.
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The Masonic tank is visible from numerous points in Old Town. It is situated off the Prospector trail. There is also a gated road that accesses the site that is used by waterworks crews. Most of the tank is underground. A section is exposed, though, and the top is approximately four feet off the ground, making it easy for someone to climb onto the tank.
The Masonic tank has a storage capacity of 500,000 gallons of water. McAffee said the tank serves as a backup source for lower Deer Valley. Water from the tank can also be put into pipes serving Prospector, Park Meadows, lower Old Town and the Park City Mountain Resort area. It is one of 16 water tanks in the Park City system. They have a combined capacity of 15.5 million gallons.
McAffee said he is aware of one successful opening of the tank’s hatch by someone who should not have done so. It occurred in 2013. The person or people would have had direct access to the water, he said. The police did not find anyone when they arrived minutes later. Tests found the water had not been tainted, he said.
He said people found at the site could be charged criminally. Potential state charges include trespassing and vandalism while a federal count of tampering with a public water system could be brought, according to McAffee.
"It’s absolutely not the place they should be. It’s illegal. They’re trespassing. It’s dangerous," he said.
Officials last fall installed a surveillance system as they augmented the security at the Masonic tank, McAffee said. He said a security camera attached to the Marsac Building can pan to the tank and zoom in on the facility as well. He said signs will be posted at the site warning people they are trespassing.
The Police Department monitors the surveillance cameras. Phil Kirk, a police captain, said officers also patrol the trail close to the Masonic tank on bicycles. Kirk said officers who find people atop the tank typically issue a warning on a first offense. Further violations could result in a citation or an arrest, he said. Kirk said police officers have written a few trespassing citations at the site since late March.
"We get vandalism. We get graffiti on the tank," Kirk said.
He added that underage drinking has been a problem there, but most of the reports have involved people admiring the view.
McAffee said he is confident in the security measures at the site. He said state drinking water officials inspect the facility for security and other issues without having found problems. He described the security at the site broadly, saying there are alarms and thick steel plates guarding the lock to the tank. The lock is designed in a manner that someone would not be able to cut the lock with a bolt cutter or other tool, he said.
"If anyone were to pop the hatch, we would know instantaneously," McAffee said.
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