Hoping to turn a blighted area into an industrial park and 18-hole golf course, Midvale has asked the owners of the Sharon Steel site to donate the more than 260 acres to the city.
If Mining Remedial Recovery Co. refuses the invitation, Midvale Mayor Everett E. Dahl may condemn the site and pay fair-market value for the land. "In its present condition, we're not talking a lot of money," he said.But the Arizona-based MRRC isn't willing to deal. Not yet, anyway.
"The strategy the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the state are going to use to remediate the site is really unclear. I don't think it would be prudent for me to commit to disposing the property when there are so many unknowns," company president Dick Graeme said.
Some 15 million tons of tailings left by a former lead and copper smelter that operated from the late 1800s until 1958 remain on site in Midvale. "If you took all the pyramids of Egypt and put them on the site, that's how much stuff has to be removed," Dahl said.
In November, U.S. District Chief Judge Bruce S. Jenkins approved a consent decree in which three companies named by the EPA will pay as much as $60 million to clean up the environmental mess. For decades, dust contaminated with arsenic and lead has blown from the defunct steel mill's tailings piles, posing a health risk to Midvale residents.
Jenkins approved settlements in a suit by EPA naming potentially responsible parties - UV Industries Inc. Liquidating Trust, Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) and Sharon Steel.
UV once owned and operated the milling facility and smelter, and Sharon Steel obtained the property in hopes of processing material left by UV. The EPA action claimed ARCO contributed to the material on the site.
Dahl said that when the lawsuit was settled nothing was said as to who owns the property after the cleanup takes place.
"I didn't like the thoughts of having it remediated and then have to deal with Sharon Steel again," he said. So he asked Jenkins to turn over the land to Midvale. Jenkins instead instructed Sharon Steel to enter into negotiations with the city.
But since the settlement, Sharon Steel has been dissolved through the company's bankruptcy. All properties under EPA jurisdiction were transferred to Mining Remedial Recovery Co. in Tucson, Ariz.
Dahl has written the company a letter requesting transfer of the property, along with water rights, to Midvale City.
"There may, in fact, be come tax benefits to your company were you to decide that out of `civic pride' your company wanted to donate this property to Midvale City," Skip Criner, director of development services for Midvale, said in a March 1, 1991, letter to Graeme.
Criner noted in the letter that whatever course of remedial action the EPA finally adopts, it will take years to complete.
The EPA's proposal to cap the toxic tailings with 3 feet of clay, soil and vegetation was nixed by the Midvale officials who fear if precipitation gets under the cap, it might allow contaminants to wash down into the city's deep aquifer and affect the city's water supply.
An alternative plan to detoxify the tailings on site, send salable materials to a smelter for reprocessing and use the remaining residue as soil base has been proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Mines.
Dahl likes the idea, but wants the cleanup to move ahead so it can become economically feasible to use the site.
The industrial park/golf course, in conjunction with development of the Jordan River Parkway, he said, "would develop an entirely new tax base for schools, the state and the city."
Within 10 years of opening, it could also create employment for some 9,000 Utahns, Dahl predicted. "These are dreams we are kind of kicking around."