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.”