Crews Clean Up Homeless Camps In Parley’s Canyon

Oct 1, 2019, 6:50 PM | Updated: Jul 15, 2023, 11:03 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Police and health crews removed propane tanks, bicycles, garbage and human waste from homeless camps in Parley’s Canyon in an effort to prevent possible groundwater contamination and other environmental hazards.

“That’s a problem because that human waste can end up in our groundwater,” said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department. “All of that debris can leach into our soil and groundwater. If there are any chemicals, metals, things like that, it can be a big problem.”

While orange isn’t normally a color we like seeing on the side of the interstate, what drivers saw on I-80 at the mouth of Parley’s Canyon Tuesday afternoon, for once, wasn’t construction.

“Here it comes!” shouted a worker as he threw an orange garbage bag down the side of the mountain and watched it roll down the steep slope to the bottom.

Crews removed waste and debris from homeless camps in Parley’s Canyon on Oct. 1, 2019.

Other workers picked up those orange bags, put them in a backhoe, which then put them into a dump truck.

Officials said there are several camps in the mountains near Salt Lake City.

In one of the camps near the mouth of Parley’s Canyon, a rock wall was built so you couldn’t see the camp — but there’s probably a good reason why those who were staying here didn’t want anybody to see what was going on.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty bad,” said Unified Police Detective Kevin Mallory. “Just in the couple of hours we’ve been here, they’ve brought down about a half dozen propane tanks.”

That wasn’t all, as workers with Unified Police and the Salt Lake County Health Department brought down coolers, burners, camp stoves, strollers, bicycles and plenty of garbage in those orange bags — including human solid waste.

“Yeah. A lot of it,” Mallory said.

No one was at this camp when cleanup crews arrived, but everyone working the job knew those who stay here will most likely come back.

That’s been the pattern at other camps, which is why, like construction, it has become a never-ending job for county crews.

“We do this sort of thing throughout the county with our municipal partners every single week throughout the year,” Rupp said. “I think if we didn’t do this, it would accumulate to the point that it would seriously affect our environmental quality here in Salt Lake County.”

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Crews Clean Up Homeless Camps In Parley’s Canyon