Summit blames malfunctioning pump for water deficiency

Friday , May 01, 2015 - 7:39 AM

EDEN — According to a Summit employee, Powder Mountain’s need to haul two tankers of water up to its ski resort just before Christmas stemmed from a malfunctioning pump rather than a water deficiency.

Summit, the collective that purchased Powder Mountain in 2013, hired Mark Schroetel to manage its ski resort last October.

“From an operational standpoint, we noticed that the Hidden Lake Lodge faucets were not putting out water. We didn’t know if we had a leak in the tank or a faulty supply line,” Schroetel said of their crisis that hit in the heart of the holiday season, historically their busiest time.

What they did know, though, was that they had to supply their customers with water. So the tankers, each carrying 6,000 gallons of water, were requested as a precautionary measure, Schroetel said.

The resort’s Hidden Lake storage tank had run dry, and its Timberline storage tank registered about 50 percent full at the time. Schroetel said the cause of the deficiency was “an error in the management of the Powder Mountain Water and Sewer District pumps that supply the holding tanks.”

Once the pumps were adjusted, the tanks refreshed and had no further issues, Schroetel added.

Weber County Commissioner Matthew Bell chairs the board for Powder Mountain Water & Sewer District, one of scores of small water districts in Ogden’s Upper Valley.

The pump in pumphouse number 3 had a faulty contactor, so water was being used and not being restored, Bell said.

The district is on the verge of significant growth when Summit’s first phase of up to 154 residential units launches construction. The mountaintop Hidden Lake Well was drilled to accommodate that growth, and it currently awaits approval from the state Division of Water Rights before the well and its companion 415,000-gallon water tank can be put into operation. Weber County building permits for Summit’s first phase are also on hold pending the State Engineer’s decision. Summit’s application for an exchange of 400 acre feet of water from Pineview has been hotly contested by area water users in both Cache and Weber counties.

“We have about 168,000 gallons of water for our current district,” Bell said, noting that very few people live on the mountain year round. “When we get approvals from the state, we’ll start working on putting the (old and new) systems together.”

That melding of the two systems will include computerized upgrades and sensors that will signal when there’s a problem similar to what occurred last December.

“We haven’t taken the (new) water tank and well into this district yet,” Bell said, “and we can’t until we know we have wet water. I’m confident this problem is going to be solved; we’re working through it right now,”

A Jan. 22 letter from the state Division of Drinking Water indicated that the sole source for Powder Mountain’s drinking water — Pizzel Spring No. 1 — registered a 25 gallon per minute flow compared to previously assumed flows of at least 70 gallons per minute.

“The calculations show the system is only providing a little more than 30 percent of the required source capacity,” the letter from Division Director Ken Bousfield said, adding that “this deficiency was validated on Dec. 23 when the system ran out of water and had to request approval for hauling in drinking water to meet their demands.”

Summit’s Schroetel said he was not disputing the division’s data on the spring flow, but wanted to make it clear that Powder Mountain had a pump problem, not a water deficiency.

Bob Hart, an engineer with the state Division of Drinking Water, said he understood that Powder Mountain had an electrical malfunction that caused its holiday surprise.

However, Hart said he stood by both the Jan. 8 and April 22 letters the division sent to Powder Mountain and Weber County concerning low water flows and no building permits until a second water source gets approved.

“That spring was putting out under 30 gallons per minute, and our regulations require that a water system be able to provide 800 gallons per day per connection,” Hart said.

On record, Powder Mountain currently has 130 connections in addition to the ski resort, which is calculated to be equivalent to 12 residential connections.

In order to meet that minimum requirement of 800 gallons per day, they would need a source capacity of about 79 gallons per minute, Hart said.

The division’s rules also state that when a water system exceeds 100 residential connections, a second source of water is required.

“The thing that saves them up there is that they only have half a dozen full-time residents,” Hart said. “Most of those connections are second homes and condos with limited occupancy.”

Hart defined the overall issue as the fact that Powder Mountain currently relies on one ebbing spring for its total supply.

Their December episode “raised a red flag,” Hart said.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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