Sewer system could spur East Side growth
Land in eastern Summit County can handle only so many septic tanks before water in the rapidly growing Kamas Valley is contaminated by human waste.
"We just had a little struggle with this with the recent High Star Ranch," Summit County planner Don Sargent said about a proposal to build about 70 new homes in South Summit. "We have some conflicting things going on here and some confusion and frustration."
To accommodate sewage the new development will create, the builders of High Star could construct a facility at the ranch to treat wastewater or work with officials in Kamas to connect to the city’s sewer system.
"They are still coordinating with Kamas," Sargent said, adding that a decision on how to treat wastewater at the new subdivision hasn’t been reached.
According to East Side Planning Commissioner Diane Foster, "we would much rather see them hook up to Kamas City’s sewer."
Meanwhile, options for treating sewage throughout the Kamas Valley include requiring developers provide on-site septic systems for new housing projects or creating a political body to fund wastewater infrastructure for the East Side so taxpayers could fund sewer improvements.
"We’re very much at the beginning of this," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said. "One district is what [we] need from the perspective of environmental quality."
County officials met with state environmental regulators to determine how much growth is necessary to justify creation of a sewer district in South Summit.
Subdivisions with fewer than 42 homes are allowed single large septic tanks and leech fields with capacity to treat 15,000 gallons of wastewater per day, the Department of Environmental Quality regulators explained.
"If you don’t have any sewer facilities then you have septic systems, and at some point you could have groundwater problems," Richer said. "What comes first, the growth or the infrastructure? Installing sewer retroactively is probably 10 times as expensive as doing it initially."
But building a sewer district on the East Side could create sprawl in the most rural part of Summit County, Richer explained, joking that "if we build it they will come."
"You could see a sewer system that would maybe hook Oakley, Marion, Kamas and Francis together," he said adding that "we want to try to look 25 to 30 years into the future and lay the necessary ground work and the plans."
But linking East Side cities is 10 years away, insisted Planning Commissioner KayCee Simpson.
"We got a viable issue today," Simpson said.
Foster stressed that the population of Summit County could double to 80,000 people by 2030.
"I think the growth pressure is going to be on eastern Summit County," she said.
Too much capacity to treat wastewater would spur development, Foster claimed.
"We need to create a system that supports the responsible growth that the people of eastern Summit County want, and protects water quality," she said.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.