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Upgrades to Phantom Ranch wastewater treatment plant set to begin

Phantom Ranch Grand Canyon
A view from above Phantom Ranch, the Colorado River and the Silver Bridge in the inner canyon.

Crews at Grand Canyon National Park are set to begin upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant at Phantom Ranch. A major visitor uptick in recent years has exceeded the capacity of the aging system.

Next Tuesday contractors will begin the first phase of upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant as they install aeration units and tanks to boost performance. Inner canyon hikers could experience 15-minute delays along with noise and dust from a Chinook helicopter and other heavy equipment.

The four-decade-old wastewater treatment plant at Phantom Ranch was designed for only a small number of users. It’s now unable to keep up with growing visitation and can no longer meet state quality standards. In 2020 officials cut reservations at the campground by half and closed dormitories, limited flush toilet use and prohibited visitor showers in order to conserve water.

Grand Canyon officials had previously estimated the cost of the system’s overhaul at about $3 million. The first phase will last through March with the second beginning in September. The project is expected to be finished by December.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.