Several speculators have already made forays into City Hall with ideas on how to redevelop a polluted wasteland in southeast Provo once it's cleaned up.
The city envisions a light industrial park in the area known as Ironton. There also has been talk of building a minor league baseball stadium on the largest tract of vacant commercial land in Provo. Contamination prevents houses from being constructed on the site.The City Council voted Tuesday to buy 139 acres from Mayor Lewis Billings after U.S. Steel voluntarily agreed to remove the hazardous waste it left behind 36 years ago. Billings sold Provo an option to purchase the land in 1992, before becoming associated with the city.
The deal won't be consummated until U.S. Steel verifies in writing that a contractor has equipment on the site poised for cleanup sometime this summer, said Robert West, assistant city attorney. Robert Stockwell, Provo chief administrative officer, will sign the closing documents in place of Billings to avoid any perception of impropriety.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Provo a $200,000 brownfields grant to help the city devise a development plan for Ironton. Former Provo economic development director Gary Golightly is among developers who have brought tentative proposals to the city.
Golightly, now of Zions Real Estate and Investment Inc., said he has clients who want to develop a business park in the area just west of U.S. 89 near the Provo-Springville boundary. He said he has a couple of different potential projects, including a short-term plan for a crushing plant to recycle concrete and asphalt on the site for use in road construction.
Ironton might prove to be a tricky area to develop.
"It's a different animal down there," Golightly said "There will definitely be some challenges."
But then Provo has some experience with that sort of thing. It turned a garbage dump into the East Bay Golf Course.
U.S. Steel spent about $400,000 studying the ground for pollutants. The most pervasive contaminant is a group of semi-volatile organic compounds generally known as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons contain the carcinogen benzene. The study also found other dangerous materials scattered across the long, narrow site, including slag, asbestos and lead.
If additional dangerous material is uncovered during development, Volanski said, the company will remove it. "We are not going to shy away from that," he said.
Remediation costs are estimated to cost about $2 million. The Pittsburgh-based steel company stands to be reimbursed for its study and cleanup costs should Provo profit from development of Ironton.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the Ironton cleanup, which will include removing some pollutants and capping others on site.
"We are satisfied it is headed in the right direction," said Brad Johnson, state Superfund branch manager. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which typically has jurisdiction over potential Superfund projects, deferred to the state.
People living near the eyesore are anxious for something to be done with the property, said Tim Brough, 2098 Mountain Vista Lane. Residents in Brough's neighborhood worried in the early '90s that Ironton waste might be creeping into their yard, but those fears have eased.
"When we turn out the lights at night we do not glow in the dark, so we are not concerned that way," Brough said.