The cost of cleaning up toxic contamination found in the American Smelter and Refining Co. smokestacks in downtown Murray should not exceed the initial $500,000 estimate, a city official said Thursday.

Anne VonWeller, Murray's chief building official, said she received the final installment of raw data Thursday from a recent contamination study by a Denver-based environmental consultant."Admittedly, this is kind of preliminary information, and we only have the raw data, not a real analysis," she said. "But the good news is that the costs of cleaning up the contamination should not be any higher than we expected."

VonWeller said the city is relying on a Salt Lake consulting firm, Montgomery Watson, to interpret the raw data pending a complete report from Colorado consultants McCulley, Frick and Gilman.

But there is enough information to clear up the one unanswered question that was casting a shadow over Tuesday's special election.

That's when Murray voters will decide whether to approve a general obligation bond of up to $3.4 million to seismically stabilize and preserve the chimneys.

Of that $3.4 million - a figure calculated by VonWeller, city staff and consultants - $500,000 was projected for cleaning up contaminants, and the balance was earmarked for preservation.

But without knowing the level of contamination, the $500,000 figure was a major uncertainty going into the bond election. In addition, preservation opponents have been estimating contamination problems might drive renovation costs as high as $10 million.

"Contamination was found in the liners of both stacks," said VonWeller. "The smaller stack has more contamination than the taller one, but the levels and the costs of cleanup are pretty much what we estimated they would be.

"While we have a fairly good idea about contamination levels," she added, "how we use this information depends entirely on the fate of the stacks."

Unless voters approve the bond issue, authorizing the city to acquire and preserve the chimneys, the stacks are certain to be demolished to make way for a massive redevelopment project.

Councilman John Ward maintains cleanup and demolition costs that would normally be covered by previous owners should be recovered by the city and used to reduce the price of retaining the stacks.

Ward, who wants to preserve the chimneys, estimates preservation costs "will be closer to $1 million" once offsets for demolition, cleanup and future revenue sources are taken into account.

But VonWeller said she must confine her figures to the actual cost of the work and leave the issue of who pays for what "to the politicians and the lawyers."

She also emphasized that the city's staff has worked hard to obtain the contamination information for voters prior to the election.

"The delay has not been the city's fault," VonWeller added.