EPA proposal on dioxin has Utah regulators on alert

Published: Sunday, Nov. 21 2010 4:00 p.m. MST

This year, for cleanup at the depot site in Ogden, the Department of Environmental Quality, the EPA and the military signed off on an amended groundwater-monitoring plan. Instead of assessing contamination through a pump and treat method, the monitoring has now shifted to simple sampling of the groundwater. Dioxin, at this stage, is no longer listed as a concern for the site, which spans 1,100 acres and is now home to an industrial park that has been deeded to the city.

Ogden, too, has its fair share of "brownfields," which are like contamination toddlers in comparison to the giant Superfund designations.

Brownfields are areas where redevelopment has been hindered because of real or perceived contamination. Ogden was one of the latest recipients of a $400,000 brownfields grant from the EPA to conduct an assessment of its west-side industrial area.

Many of the properties have sat abandoned for years, stifled from development by investors fearful they'd be buying up a cleanup process with an exorbitant price tag.

Tom Christopulos, the city's economic development manager, agreed that any change in the EPA's rulebook could escalate costs.

"Will it drive up the cost of remediation worse than it already is? Remediation is still an expensive process and it's that process that leads to the significant challenge of economic development."

The city has two remediation zones that have just been completed, but many more loom in the future.

"The biggest challenge we have economically is you increase the level of unknowns and the level of uncertainty. Nobody wants to finance something that is uncertain."

While DEQ's brownfields manager William Reese said he was unaware of any sites in Utah where dioxin is a concern, he — like others — are waiting to see what the EPA does and what implications may follow.

Concerns in other areas of the country have prompted strongly worded requests for the federal agency to back off its plan to impose stricter standards.

Oklahoma environmental regulators sent a letter to EPA, insisting the "current proposal would add to the remedial roadblocks already in place."

Christopulos said the imposition of stricter standards would be like "wandering through a mine field over the next year. I don't need any more hurdles."

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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