PCSD temporarily relocates McPolin playground after toxicity concerns due to construction dust

PARK CITY, Utah — The Park City area’s extensive mining history has left the soil contaminated with lead, arsenic, and other substances, creating problems for many, including the Park City School District (PCSD).

Since the beginning of summer, construction has been ongoing at the Kearns campus near McPolin Elementary School (MPES). Although solid mitigation was done while students were away on break, concerns were raised by MPES preschool teachers, whose classrooms and playgrounds are closest to the construction site, about the potential for airborne lead and arsenic put in the air by the construction.

On October 20, the district announced that out of concerns voiced by the staff, there had been a decision to temporarily relocate McPolin’s preschool playground for the duration of nearby construction.

While planning for the summer construction at McPolin, an assessment was done complying with EPA standards. The area in question falls under the DEQ and Park City Municipal jurisdiction, which have different standards regarding contaminated soil removal.

“Going into pre-construction and then later in the process, PCSD started bringing together both the DEQ and the Park City Municipal to check what we were doing when some concerns were raised about some of the areas near McPolin,” said Park City School District Spokesperson Heidi Matthews.

“The district brought in more people and had more conversations, and it was found that work at the DEQ site was doing all the right processes. There is a variance between the two jurisdictions, but the district has always gone with whatever is the highest standard and then some.”

During the process, contaminated surface soil was removed and piled behind Treasure Mountain Junior High, as EPA standards dictate. Later in the summer, construction had halted to comply with paperwork processes, leaving approximately a 1o’x20′ area with exposed soil. This area was removed during the 2022 fall break while students and teachers were away.

Recently confusion arose when the district released a statement saying that a specific plan was submitted to the DEQ, implying that this was recently done. However, they have corrected this, saying there is no requirement for, nor have they submitted a plan since the initial phase of construction in 2017. The district also clarified that pre-construction did start before the beginning of the summer, and the soil cap was not penetrated during the process.

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