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Tim Hussin, Deseret Morning News
The Murray Laundry property at 4200 S. State has been on the EPA's radar since 2000 as a potential hazardous site.

WEST MILLCREEK — A potential hazardous wasteland is keeping developers at bay along a stretch of State Street.

The area seems to have everything going for it. Two TRAX stations are just a short walk away, and new developments are popping up left and right.

But no one seems to want to build here.

The land is littered with salvage yards, industrial businesses, and vacant or neglected properties. Salt Lake County leaders fear the land could be tainted, thwarting any plans for development.

"Both existing property owners and potential developers will face a range of financial risks due to the uncertainty of remediation costs associated with potential environmental cleanup," according to a 2007 study of the area for the county's redevelopment agency.

To eliminate that uncertainty, the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday awarded the county a $200,000 brownfields grant.

The money will be used to do an environmental assessment of the area, which stretches between 300 West to State Street and 3900 South to the Murray city border. The area has a long history of commercial and industrial operations, with trucking and paving companies, a cement plant and printing and graphics businesses.

About 13 percent of all parcels in the area are vacant, with a "significant amount of underutilized parcels," according to the county's EPA grant proposal.

"With the high vacancy rate, you can't help but think it's a deterrent for development," said Emily Farmer, the county's redevelopment manager.

The area is also home to the old Murray Laundry property on 4200 S. State. That land has been on the EPA's radar since 2000 as a potential hazardous site.

Bill Bang apparently didn't get the memo about not buying land in that area.

He bought the old Murray Laundry site about five years ago, knowing full well that the laundry solvents likely contaminated the land. He just hoped the contamination wasn't "overwhelming bad."

Lucky for him, the site wasn't so bad that the federal government has stepped in.

"I figured it was a risk worth taking," Bang said. "I guess I'm a little bit of a gambler. Most people wouldn't have done it. I'm one of the stupid ones — what do I know?"

County officials fear Bang is the exception, not the norm.

Even if the land in West Millcreek is not contaminated, the land is marred with a reputation that it is.

"There are a lot of areas down there that do have that kind of reputation, and the perception is there," said Rita Lund, the county council's liaison to the east-side unincorporated areas. "Nobody knows."

County officials hope the grant money will help set the record straight.

The $200,000 will only analyze and identify sites that are contaminated. Any cleanup will likely cost a lot more.

The county has big plans for the area and is launching a blight study in an effort to use tax revenue generated from future development on the property to improve the site.

The West Millcreek area is right in the middle of two ambitious redevelopment projects in Murray and South Salt Lake. Both are transit-oriented developments that will include housing and retail.

That's what Salt Lake County leaders want to do in West Millcreek. The area could even include a parkway and trail system on the area's southern border, Big Cottonwood Creek.

"The time is right to move forward in assisting this once-ignored area of the county," according to the county's EPA grant application. "Absent the uncertainty from potential cleanup, remediation and toxic tort liability costs, the site is well-positioned for immediate redevelopment."


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