Two green water tanks high on the hillside in Summit Park are being filled by tank trucks because of a water shortage that has, at times, left homes dry during the past several months.
Importing water to the village's water system is a stop-gap measure designed to keep the water system operating until a new well is on line. But some residents see the shortages and temporary remedies as just another chapter in the water company's turbulent and unpredictable history."We'll probably have to pay for the whole water system all over again," said Eric Charnov, a University of Utah professor who has lived in Summit Park about four years. "Byzantine" best describes the village's matrix of neglected water lines that have been patched so many times that the location of some lines isn't even documented, he said.
Bob Swenson, environmental health director for Summit County, said Summit Park has been plagued with frozen and broken water lines for the past five years. But this year the problem was not caused by the water system's pipelines. "This year it's the low water table."
Wells and springs the system relies on started drying up after unusually dry seasons during the past two years.
A new well that is supposed to remedy the situation probably will not be on line for four to eight weeks.
Residents last summer formed a special improvement district and borrowed $850,000 to pay for the new well and pipelines needed to connect the well to the water system.
The Army Corps of Engineers began having water trucked into the community Sunday after a hurried plunge through federal red tape that prefaced their being able to help.
Corps officials first came to Summit Park Wednesday to see if the situation there qualified for federal assistance. Homeowners voted that night to each pay $10 per month for the imported water if the corps could pay the trucking cost.
Corps officials determined Friday afternoon they could pay the $38,000 it will take to haul water to the community for 30 days. They reviewed the project with interested contractors Saturday morning and received bids until 3 p.m. The bids were rushed to the nearest corps office, in Sacramento, and a contractor was chosen that evening. Trucks from West Hazmat, Roosevelt, started hauling water Sunday afternoon.
But even the temporary remedy has its setbacks. The occupants of Summit Park's approximately 300 homes have been promised water only every other day; and even though the water is chlorinated while in the tank trucks, a boil order will remain in place as long as water is being hauled into the system, Swenson said.
The entire village may have water all the time if the trucks can work fast enough to transfer water from a Summit Water Distribution Co. hydrant to the water tanks several miles away at the rate of 40,000 gallons each day. The trucks weren't able to keep that schedule Monday because a pump was not working.
Summer Dawson, who lives just down the street from the storage tanks, said she and her family have gotten used to the wintertime water problems in their 51/2 years in Summit Park.
"I'm doing my dishes right now because I noticed there was a little dribble coming out of the tap," she said. The dishes have had to wait three days because the taps have been dry.
The family has gotten somewhat used to showering every other day, but they have brought their own water in to meet special needs. "We had a party Saturday night and had to haul water in," she said. "You can't expect guests to come and not be able to flush the toilet."
Charnov said the water system's history of problems makes it difficult to categorize the current situation as a crisis. Property owners have collectively spent millions on the water system and on lawsuits that followed the water company's bankruptcy several years ago, he said. "But this is the first time there have been health ramifications."
Swenson said only one unconfirmed illness has been reported since the system started running dry late last year.