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Rio Tinto to remove arsenic-contaminated soil near West Jordan subdivision

Published: Friday, May 30 2014 2:45 p.m. MDT

WEST JORDAN — A winter storm sent arsenic flowing from an old mine to right outside a West Jordan subdivision.

Rio Tinto, which is in the process of closing the Barneys Canyon gold mine, pledges a full cleanup.

Arsenic flowed from the Kennecott-operated mine to near the Sycamores subdivision in West Jordan. Rio Tinto is preparing to remove the soil from about 1,000 feet away from the Sycamores subdivision near 8000 South and state Route 111.

West Jordan water department engineers tested for groundwater contamination.

“While leaching is always a possibility, we could find no evidence that our drinking water supply was in any danger from the arsenic concentrations,” said Rick Davis, West Jordan's city manager.

Rio Tinto has fenced off the hazardous section, but neighbors can expect up to eight weeks of noise when tractors and backhoes start removing the bad soil this summer. That process will start when the state approves the plan.

“We have committed to the nearby residents to reduce any impacts as much as possible,” Rio Tinto spokesman Kyle Bennett said. “We’ve had a very open line of communication with them through letters, personal visits and social media.”

Bennett said arsenic is a natural element that came from the refining of gold and other metals at the mine. Neither Rio Tinto nor West Jordan has reported any complaints or sicknesses from residents.

Davis said Rio Tinto has been forthright over the past two months, when the company’s engineers informed city officials of the problem.

The contaminated area is uninhabited, he said, though joggers and walkers frequent it occasionally.

Bennett would not disclose the cost for removing the soil.

Email: psamore@deseretnews.com

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