Murray officials received some encouragement from Gov. Mike Leavitt Wednesday for the city's plan to clean up and redevelop a downtown smelter site - but they still went home without the signature they were seeking.
Mayor Dan Snarr had asked for the meeting in hopes of persuading Leavitt the state's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to sign a consent decree setting out the responsibilities of all parties to the cleanup.A final copy of the decree is being fine-tuned this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.
But Leavitt reaffirmed DEQ's position, saying the state won't sign the decree because it also would limit the agency's legal ability to deal with possible future groundwater contamination that could originate from the site.
Utah's chief executive conceded such a scenario is unlikely given the cleanup plan developed by city and federal officials.
But if it should, the governor said, "We don't want to give away our (legal) capacity to solve problems. The EPA is not the easiest party to deal with."
Snarr said the state's refusal to sign the decree probably won't cause parties to the pending EPA settlement to withdraw from the project or hold it up.
"Under duress, they're moving forward," said the mayor, who was joined at the meeting by Councilmen John Ward and John Rush.
But Snarr also cited "tremendous consternation among landowners" who would like as-sur-ances their progeny won't be held responsible for groundwater problems 20 or 30 years from now.
Leavitt replied he can't dispel their discomfort at the cost of leaving other area residents financially exposed if contaminated water from the site ever migrates into nearby drinking water aquifers.
Dianne Nielsen, DEQ executive director, told Murray officials she supports the city's cleanup plan and will contact the landowners' attorney to see if she can help deal with their concerns.