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Hazardous and contaminated soil was supposed to be removed from Treasure Mountain Junior High after 90 days, but it’s still there years later.

If you read one news story this weekend, read the Salt Lake Tribune’s “Park City School District was supposed to clean up soil years ago. Here’s how much it will cost now.” The background is that soil with lead and arsenic was put into piles behind Treasure Mountain Junior High (TMJH) during construction in 2017. In the years since, more potentially hazardous and contaminated soil was added to the piles. In 2019, the Park City School District added the cost of soil removal to its Master Plan. In 2021, district and city officials discussed removing the piles. As we start the 2023 school year, nothing has happened, and those piles remain.

Here’s the kicker. Those toxic piles are only supposed to remain onsite for 90 days. Currently, they have been there for almost 6 years.

According to the article, School Board President Andrew Caplan was questioned about this, and he responded, “Our admin team is in charge of educating 4,600 children and supervising around 800 employees whose job it is to do the same. They are also called upon to manage quite a few facilities, which is a secondary responsibility to education. Because this is not their expertise they do the best they can with their knowledge and limited bandwidth.” A district spokesperson also apparently said that the district preferred to look ahead and not assign blame.

As a parent of a child in the district, I hear, “Sorry we may be poisoning Park City’s children, but we have a school district to run.” I do know the district has stated that these piles are not harmful. However, when they appear to not be following rules regarding contaminated substances, and had the incident at McPolin last year, it doesn’t give one faith.

So, where does this go?

  • There will likely be a cleanup effort that will cost between $3 million and $13 million to remove these piles of toxic soil.
  • PCSD likely can’t clean that up during the school year, even if they wanted to, or they would further expose children when they disturb the soil.
  • I don’t see how they can economically tear down Treasure Mountain Junior High because they will disturb even more soil.
  • I also don’t see how they can encourage other entities to buy it with its contingent liabilities.
  • When will the lawsuits come? Lead and arsenic can cause learning disabilities, impact growth, and lead to cancer. At some point in the future, PCSD will be sued over these issues.

The District appears to have been aware of the problem for years. The soil impacted children with the closure of the McPolin playground last year. Yet, the school district doesn’t seem to be willing to solve the issue. The school district cites that they didn’t know the toxic soil should be removed after 90 days.

Ignorance is not a defense. I guess lack of logic isn’t a defense, either.

If this were a one-off, I might cut the school district some slack. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we react to mistakes that define us. However, the Park City School District has a pattern of mismanagement. It’s gone beyond a failure to report abuse, not applying for building permits, and not treating teachers respectfully. Now, it allows toxic soil to sit for years and potentially impact our children.

It’s a dark time for the Park City School District. For a school district with only 7 schools, 4,500 students, and a lot of money, they can’t seem to get out of their own way. I feel for the students who will be impacted by the district’s poor decision-making.

Again, I would encourage you to read the Salt Lake Tribune’s article. They have much more detail on the subject.

Update: There was additional information provided related to the Sal Lake Tribune article: “State code requires piles that have been in place for more than 90 days be inspected and approved by the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control before they can legally be stored any longer. PCSD did not do that – the piles were only inspected on September 16, 2022 after a contractor called the DEQ with questions about them.”



Marie Antoinette

Meanwhile, as far as the students go, let them eat dirt. This is unconscionable.


Lies. The district has known about this for years, yet choose to ignore it. Do you know how many times concerns have been brought up about his. Parents and teachers have complained. Last year they kept adding to the piles. McPolin shut down the playground due to this. All they did was cover it up. Meanwhile as they continued to dig and dump in behind Treasure mountain while contaminents flew in the air while kids were outside. This is serious folks, our kids go to school at McPolin.

Born and Raised PC

The Board and Superintendent knew then (see 2015 master plan documents) and know now (2023) that the soil on and under Treasure Mountain Junior High is filled with dangerous contaminants.

PCSD leaders willingly ignored and keep ignoring the hazards to their own staff, students, and the surrounding community members.

Mike Tanner (COO or some such high-paid district office official) lied in the last Board meeting when he said PCSD doesn’t know even today whether or not they have to move the soil piles. That’s ludicrous on its face.

When will Park City residents wake up and demand accountability for all the lies, wrongdoings, tax hikes, and lazy negligence at the top running this school district while taking high salaries?

As for Board member Caplan’s response, I call bullsh**ogna. Officials running 30,000-student school districts in Salt Lake have far greater responsibility than tiny PCSD. Those leaders do better! They do better! If he and his lot find it so hard to keep track of major issues all around our school district, then maybe he should resign immediately.

You won’t find an honest person in leadership to take accountability, run with it, make amends like an adult, and, God-forbid, FIX it.

For more than a decade PCSD leaders haven’t accepted accountability for anything done wrong. It’s our fault as much as theirs. There’s no demand for excellence from the community. We ignore it, too. Too many in this area can’t be bothered with the state of our school district and its annual decline.


If PSCD did not know about any of this than why have the piles grown larger since last year? They have continued to dump the contaminated dirt there putting students, teachers, and employees, all at risk. Of course Todd Hauber knew, why will he not comment? People know all of this to be true. People stand up to this.


Gildea and Caplan need to go. Poisoning our kids now and STILL justifying?!?!? My god. The city shut down the neighbors resurfacing their lawn. Where is the accountability for amazing dirt piles every kid loves to play on w our even a warning sign.


Wake up people they dumped all summer while kids are out of school. I walk PC hill just about every day and watched the dumping continue at the Treasure Mountain fields all summer and they capped it with some kind of straw. When our future grandkids lose one of their parents in 20 years from cancer you will know who to blame.


The board and admin have learned from experience that nobody will hold them accountable, so this isn’t surprising. Fool me once, and all…


Exactly Walt, they have been lying for years and hope it gets brushed under the rug. Meanwhile the kids are suffering from their lies. Parents are so concerned about Covid, yet a cancer cluster is sitting right on their kids schools and they don’t demand answers..Go figure.


Park city school district is one of the smallest districts in Utah (easy to manage) with the highest paid Superintendent by ALOT. Seems like we are overpaying for bad leadership.

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