A study of contamination at the Wasatch Chemical Co. site, 1979 S. Seventh West, will be undertaken by Questar Corp. and its subsidiaries under an agreement signed by the company and the state.
A contract, to take effect after a 30-day public comment period, would cover only the study, expected to cost $1 million and take 16 months. It will not fund any cleanup, if one is required.The agreement to fund a study partly settles a suit filed by the state in 1986 against parties believed potentially responsible for contamination by pesticides and caustic chemicals. But other defendants in the U.S. District Court suit haven't signed.
Wasatch Chemical operated at the site from 1960 to 1978 under various owners, formulating chemicals there, among them herbicides containing dioxins. In 1985 state officials discovered 13 old gas cylinders and two tiers of leaking 55-gallon drums of chemicals at the site. A soil sample showed one spot was so highly contaminated it was more than 50 percent straight herbicide.
Dioxins, suspected of being able to cause cancer, might have washed away from the site by way of a drainage canal that empties into the Jordan River.
Lot 6, a 3.5-acre site where the drums and cylinders were abandoned, was targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency for Utah's first emergency cleanup under the Superfund program.
The study covers the entire 17.75-acre site, not only Lot 6.
The new study is to be conducted "properly and promptly" by Questar and its subsidiaries Mountain Fuel Supply Co., Entrada Industries, Questar Pipeline Co. and Interstate Land Corp.
"Obviously, if dioxins have gotten into the canal and been carried down, I think the studies will go as far as necessary to determine the problem," even off the site, said Curt Burnett, spokesman for Questar, 180 E. First South.
Burnett emphasized the agreement "does not constitute an admission of guilt or liability for the potential contamination at the Wasatch Chemical site. It does represent a good-faith effort on our part to move the study ahead in the interest of public health and safety, while reserving our right to cover the costs of the study from those companies and individuals we feel are responsible for the problem."
Burnett said Questar hasn't had effective control of the site since 1978, and it believes the problems result from activities since then. Although Questar still owns the land, it has been leased to other companies.
Starting in 1960, he said, the site was occupied by Wasatch Chemical. In 1968, Wasatch Chemical was acquire by Mountain Fuel. In 1971, Wasatch Chemical became a division of Entrada, which was a subsidiary of Mountain Fuel.
Today Entrada and Mountain Fuel are two of the five subsidiaries of Questar Corp., a diversified energy company based in Salt Lake City.