Three representatives from Summit County will travel to Denver Monday to meet with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and get an update on the much-anticipated cleanup of the Silver Creek watershed.
In March the EPA and United Park City Mines (now owned by Talisker Land Holdings) agreed on a plan to clean up over 2,700 acres affected by old mining operations. According to the EPA, the site contains many hazardous materials such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, silver and zinc near US 40 northeast of Park City.
"We want to go talk to them," said Summit County Manager Bob Jasper, who will be joined by councilmen Roger Armstrong and Chris Robinson on the one-day jaunt. "We want to better understand [the status of the project] and we want to get a shared vision."
"It's one of those areas that is important to us," Armstrong said. "We want to check in and see their timeline."
The meeting is just one in a series of events that started in 1989, when the EPA and State of Utah detected mine tailings (hazardous debris from mining operations) sinking into a diversion ditch adjacent to the nearby Silver Creek. According to previous reporting from The Park Record, the most recent tailings disposal at Richardson Flat occurred between 1975 and 1981 when UPCM leased mining operations to Noranda Mining and Park City Ventures.
Jasper said the clean-up would take a decade and would involve cranes in the Silver Creek streambed near Prospector every day doing work. Many state and federal agencies will be involved in the process, but according to the March agreement UPCM will be the responsible party for cleanup.
A federal public hearing will be held most likely sometime in the fall when the EPA will lay out its remediation plans, Jasper said.
The issue is just one of several environmental topics that County Council and the county manager have on their minds. At Wednesday's County Council meeting, the members heard a presentation from the Division of Water Quality regarding the Echo and Rockport Reservoirs.
According to water officials, Rockport and Echo Reservoirs are not meeting standards for the cold-water game fish due to low dissolved oxygen and high temperatures. Low dissolved oxygen causes stress to fish, promotes disease, and can result in stunted growth or even death to the fish.
"I see fish as a canary in a coal mine," said Kari Lundeen, an environmental specialist with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Therefore the reservoirs needed a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load report) to be conducted, which is required when the level of a pollutant in a body of water exceeds the water quality for that pollutant, water officials said. The TMDL measures the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can contain and still maintain its beneficial uses. The report showed high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous loads, they reported. The threat does not extend to drinking water at this point.
Water officials have submitted their findings to the EPA, and the Wednesday presentation was simply to keep council abreast of matters pertaining to the reservoirs, which should receive remediation in the future.
"It seems like they have a good plan in place," Armstrong said. He added that as fisherman himself, he believes that recreation on the East Side is an important and viable industry in the present and future.