Park City readies to demolish waterworks building, build a new one
In the early 1990s, amid Park City’s great population boom, leaders were attempting to ensure municipal services kept up with the growth.
The ability to provide water suitable for drinking was crucial to the growth, but it was already established by then that one of the important water sources, the Spiro Tunnel on the edge of Thaynes Canyon, produced water with contaminants like arsenic, thallium, iron and manganese.
City Hall officials of that era opted to tap the Spiro Tunnel, dating to the silver-mining era, and needed to blend and then treat the water before it was put into the system. Park City in 1993 debuted the water-treatment plant for the Spiro Tunnel. On the exterior, it was an architectural outlier in the neighborhood. On the interior, the pipes and instruments made it one of the municipality’s unique buildings.
The water-treatment plant, so visible just off Three Kings Drive and across the street from the Park City Golf Club, shut down in mid-September amid a major reworking of the waterworks system. The insides of the building by early January had been largely abandoned. Much of the insulation had been removed and debris had been put in a pile. The demolition timeline has not been finalized, but the work is expected to last several weeks once it starts.
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A new treatment plant will be built at the same location. The construction will start after the Sundance Film Festival. The expected completion date is in early 2023.
“For its time, it was very unique architecturally,” said Michelle DeHaan, City Hall’s water quality and treatment manager and a key staffer in the efforts to build the new treatment plant.
The Spiro Tunnel treatment plant served a critical purpose in the growth era. The contaminant levels in the water from the tunnel needed to be lowered before the water was put into the system. The early strategy was to blend the water from Spiro Tunnel with water from another source, reducing the contaminant concentrations. Officials eventually wanted to use more water from the Spiro Tunnel, though, and chose to treat the water from that source instead of tapping the strategy of blending on a long-term basis.
The opening of the treatment plant in 1993 assisted as Park City addressed the contaminants. The reduction of arsenic in the drinking water was especially notable since it carries such negative associations for its effects on people and wildlife.
The arsenic level in the water from the Spiro Tunnel in 1993 was 60 parts per billion, according to the municipal government. The drinking-water standard of that era was 50 parts per billion of arsenic and it was reduced over time to 10 parts per billion. The Spiro Tunnel water treatment plant at the time of its closure reduced the figure to 2 parts per billion. The treatment plant reduced the arsenic levels with a filter that DeHaan describes as a sand-like substance with a magnesium base.
“The city was a real pioneer at that time,” DeHaan said, calling the plant a “huge success.”
The new treatment plant is one of the projects in an approximately $100 million set of upgrades to the waterworks system. The work will be funded through a long-term increase to water rates of approximately 3% annually.
It will treat drinking water for arsenic, lead, antimony and thallium. It will treat water to be released into streams for cadmium, mercury, zinc and the four others. The stream-release standards are more stringent than those regulating drinking water.
The plant will treat all the water from the Judge Tunnel and up to 100% of the Spiro Tunnel water. According to the municipal government, the Spiro Tunnel plant that will be demolished treated 1,000 gallons of water per minute exclusively from that tunnel while the new one will have a 5,000-gallon-per-minute capacity for water from the Judge Tunnel, the Spiro Tunnel and Thiriot Springs.
More information about the project is available on the City Hall website. The direct link is: parkcity.org/departments/public-utilities/engineering-construction-division/water-projects/3kings-water-treatment-plant.
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Nearly 300 year-round workers are affected by the cost-cutting measures, according to a resort spokesperson.