A bankruptcy judge on Wednesday approved a sweeping environmental cleanup plan of the Geneva Steel property that could one day open the door for residential and commercial development.
Judge Glen E. Clark approved a $30 million to $42 million remediation plan of soil and groundwater contamination at the Vineyard site. The cleanup could take two to three years to complete.
Geneva and U.S. Steel, which is based in Pittsburgh and owned the plant prior to 1987, will share in the cleanup costs. Geneva will pay $12 million, and U.S. Steel will pay roughly 75 percent of the remaining total costs.
Stephen Garcia, an attorney for Geneva, said the plan would clean up the effects of 60 years of steelmaking operations and will prove to be a tremendous benefit for Utah County and the entire state.
San Francisco-based URS Corp., an engineering firm specializing in environmental cleanup, will oversee the operations. URS employs about 80 people at its Salt Lake office. Roughly 10 of those employees will be directly involved in remediation efforts, Brett Mustoe, URS project manager for the Geneva cleanup, told the Deseret Morning News.
The entire 1,700-acre Geneva site was surveyed foot-by-foot, Garcia said, by Geneva and U.S. Steel representatives, to determine locations of contaminated areas.
Mustoe said about 200 so-called "solid waste management units" were identified.
Those areas contain organic solvents, oil and petroleum products and some heavy metal residues, according to Dennis Downs, director of the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste, the state agency with oversight over the cleanup.
"Some of it's in the soil. Some of it has gotten down into the groundwater directly underneath the facility," Downs said. "If they want to use a portion of the property for residential use, then the cleanup has to be at a higher level than if they are just going to use it for a parking lot or industrial use."
Downs said some parts of the property areas to the north and northwest and the far south end show no surface contaminants.
U.S. Steel, which purchased the plant from the U.S. government after World War II, and Geneva have worked together to determine which areas they share responsibility in recovering. Garcia said cooperation between the two companies has resulted in the settlement of prior disputes that date back to 1987.
"There are some areas that Geneva is 100 percent responsible for because they were the party that caused the contamination," Downs said. "There are some areas that U.S. Steel is 100 percent responsible for, and then there are some areas that both used, and so they'll work together to pay for the cleanup of those areas."
In February, China-based Qingdao Iron & Steel Group Co. purchased Geneva's core assets for $40 million.
The sale of Geneva's equipment has prompted its secured creditors, CitiCorp USA and the federal government, to back remediation efforts, which Geneva and its creditors are betting will greatly increase the value of the property.
Geneva's secured creditors are still owed roughly $108 million.
With an environmental plan now in place, uncertainty over the scope of the remediation and how it will be funded have been put to rest. That makes Geneva's property attractive to potential developers, Garcia said.
Joseph Cannon, chairman of Geneva, told the Utah County Commission in June he envisioned a mixed-use development on the Geneva site that will include homes, commercial establishments, light industrial uses, a power plant and a commuter rail system.
Geneva filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2002, its second time in bankruptcy.At the height of the steel mill's operations, during the early 1960s, the company employed nearly 8,000 workers, according to James Wood, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah.
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