Park City leaders blame politics, misinformation in dispute about contaminated soils |

Park City leaders blame politics, misinformation in dispute about contaminated soils

It was ‘absolutely a shame’ how the highly charged discussions unfolded, city councilor says

The Marsac Building.
Park Record file photo

A member of the Park City Council on Thursday delivered strongly worded comments about the controversy regarding City Hall’s now-abandoned efforts to develop a facility to store contaminated soils along the S.R. 248 entryway, claiming politics played a role in the dispute.

City Councilor Max Doilney was one of several elected officials who made statements about the topic on Thursday. It was the first time the full slate of elected officials addressed the topic in a month and since a City Hall primary election.

Doilney said the City Council did not present a unified front using information from experts.

“It’s political. It’s total BS. If this had happened at a different time of year, if it didn’t happen during a campaign it’s entirely likely you wouldn’t have had the same kind of uproar,” he said.

Doilney said he is “pissed” with the results of the talks. He claimed the opposition did not provide accurate information.

“They won the messaging battle on this one, which is they called it a toxic waste dump, when every expert that came in front of us basically put that in the garbage. That was absolutely false,” he said.

Another city councilor, Steve Joyce, said many people became worried based on falsehoods. He said there was an “unbelievable amount of misinformation that was just repeated and spread.”

“It was the same thing that we’ve been dealing with for 50 years. … As somebody described it, we don’t have three eyes and one ear kind of thing. It’s like, no, the community is healthy,” Joyce said. “We’ve gone through this. We’ve had tens of thousands of trucks of this soil going through town. The next little batch of them’s not going to make any difference. But at the same time I think the community just kind of worked themselves into a frenzy and doesn’t want to see this. I don’t see how we step back into that.”

City Councilor Tim Henney, meanwhile, had similar comments.

“It’s just a shame, absolutely a shame, that people were so irresponsible and said things like toxic and hazardous materials. But as I’ve said in the past, once it’s been said, once it’s been heard, it’s not going to be unheard. … That battle has been lost,” Henney said.

The dispute stretched through the spring and into the middle of the summer. The concept called for Park City to develop a facility known as a repository on municipal land located at the S.R. 248-Richardson Flat Road intersection. Leaders wanted to store materials containing lead, arsenic and other contaminants at the location. Park City was founded in the 19th century as a silver-mining camp, and there are contaminated soils and other materials left from the mining era.

City Hall previously used a repository at Richardson Flat, but that facility, dating to the mining era, has not been available since 2010. Materials unearthed since then have been taken to a Tooele County facility.

Park City officials saw the development of a repository on municipal acreage as a solution. A repository there would be cost effective when compared to trucking the materials to Tooele County, the officials said.

The efforts, though, drew a strong rebuke from Parkites and the topic became an issue in the early weeks of the City Hall campaign. There were concerns about public and environmental health.

The two people on the mayoral ballot in November — incumbent Mayor Andy Beerman and City Councilor Nann Worel — made similar comments at the meeting on Thursday.

Beerman said Parkites have “spoken with broad opposition.”

“We need to honor the fact the community doesn’t want us to move on this. And so I think for the moment we need to put this on hold. What that doesn’t resolve is the fact that we still haven’t solved any of our challenges and still have a very large pile of soils … that we’re going to have to figure out how to address,” the mayor said.

Worel said Parkites “have spoken, very clearly, with one voice.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a clearer mandate from the residents of Park City than we did this time. And I think as elected officials we were elected to represent those voices. And that voice was very clear, for whatever reason,” she said.

The elected officials at the Thursday meeting formally opted against proceeding with the repository and want staffers to explore the impact of the decision on the scope and budget of municipal projects in locations where contaminated soils are expected to be unearthed. They also want to restart talks with the EPA about contaminated soils storage and requested staffers withdraw an application for a permit that was previously filed with the state Department of Environmental Quality to develop the repository that was scrapped on Thursday.

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