Ski Utah Press Release

Public Relations Director

Snowbird Releases Water Quality Test Results, Initiates MERIT

First quarter heavy metal sampling show water meets drinking water standards

Snowbird, Utah – Water samples collected since April in Mary Ellen Gulch in upper American Fork Canyon indicate that all heavy metal standards to protect drinking water are met.


The water sampling, conducted by a certified third-party contractor, observed by American Fork City, was a condition outlined by the Utah County Board of Adjustment in its Conditional Use Permit approval of Snowbird’s application to construct lifts on its private property.


Overall, in accordance with the state assigned water quality standards to protect fish and other aquatic organisms, results of the first quarter of sampling show negligible water quality impacts to American Fork River from Mary Ellen Gulch.  With the exception of zinc, all metal results meet state-assigned standards, except for three locations on two of the sampling dates recorded in the upper portion of Mary Ellen Gulch. However, all aquatic standards are met above the confluence with American Fork River and all standards were met at all sampling locations in June.


“Although American Fork River isn’t classified as a drinking water source, we are pleased that these stringent standards are met and that the initial test results show no harmful impacts to aquatic wildlife and downstream users before Mary Ellen Gulch reaches American Fork River,” said Snowbird President Bob Bonar. “What we’re seeing from the initial tests is consistent with prior samples collected in the area, and we will continue to look for opportunities to partner with agencies and organizations to positively impact water quality in upper American Fork Canyon.”


Also announced this week by Snowbird is the initiation of the Mary Ellen Resource Interest Taskforce (MERIT), an effort by the resort to proactively engage key stakeholders including various governmental agencies, outdoor user groups, recreational interests, land and environmental conservation and advocacy groups, nearby cities, irrigation companies, and Utah County.  “We are initiating MERIT to foster community outreach, share information and participate in productive conversations about resource use, access and water quality,” said Hilary Arens, Snowbird’s Director of Water Resources and Environmental Programs. In this effort, Snowbird has already met with American Fork City, Utah County, Utah Division of Water Quality, Trout Unlimited, National Forest Foundation, Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining, local irrigators and the Utah Snowmobile Association.  “By engaging with these user groups, agencies and experts, we are sharing information, getting feedback, and gaining a better understanding of the uses, impacts and environmental condition of upper American Fork Canyon,” said Arens. “We are actively discussing opportunities to partner with these organizations to continue the recreational opportunities and improve water quality in this area, and will continue meeting with these key stakeholders.” 


In 2006, Snowbird partnered with Trout Unlimited, EPA, U.S. Forest Service, Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Tiffany & Co. on an unprecedented clean-up of the Pacific Mine in upper American Fork Canyon.  The clean-up, which received the EPA’s 2007 Environmental Achievement Award, was the most significant improvement to water quality in American Fork Canyon since miners first entered the canyon in the 1800’s.  “Snowbird was very fortunate to work with some incredible partners on this outstanding project,” said Bonar. “We were grateful for their efforts back then, and look forward to bringing this team and other partners together for similar projects, should the need arise.”


As a condition for the construction of two lifts on Snowbird’s private property in upper Mary Ellen Gulch, Snowbird will continue to sample water quality for two years prior to and during construction, and will continue for a total of ten years from the time of approval to ensure no degradation in water quality occurs due to the change in use.