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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal report says elevated levels of some heavy metals could pose a threat to people who frequently use parts of American Fork Canyon outside Salt Lake City.
Researchers found arsenic and lead exceeding recommended levels for hikers, campers and ATV riders who often and repeatedly visit the area, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
"The people we're concerned about is someone who has a passion for the area, and goes up there year after year after year for their whole life," EPA site assessment manager Ryan Dunham told the Daily Herald. "It's repeated exposure."
Dunham said the preliminary assessment, released in March, is a first-step look at whether cleanup is needed.
The findings were attributed to waste rock and tailing piles from mining during the 1800s and early 1900s on property now owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
Tailings from the Yankee and Globe mines have the greatest potential for human exposure, according to the report, because both mines are accessible, attractive and historic.
"The potential for these recreational exposures at these locations merits further attention," the report said.
Water quality in the North Fork of the American Fork River and the main stem of the American Fork River meet state standards, the report said, although levels of cadmium and zinc exceed water quality standards in Mary Ellen Gulch downstream of the Yankee and Globe mines.
The report said none of the affected water sources are used by nearby cities for drinking water.
Dunham said people worried about exposure to heavy metals can take precautions like avoiding inhaling dust during off-road vehicle use and by washing hands before eating.
Further study is expected on water samples and waste rock to project possible exposure and analyze options for the future, the EPA official said.
The agency began a preliminary assessment after requests in 2016 by Mark Allen, founder of Protect and Preserve American Fork Canyon.
Snowbird ski resort in nearby Little Cottonwood Canyon has posted signs with recreation groups that use the area directing people to avoid rock waste piles, spokesman Brian Brown said.
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com
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