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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Anderson Geneva LLC own the old Geneva Steel site and have been cleaning up the site. The structures and are all gone but their are still a lot of old concrete foundations and underground equipment to remove.

VINEYARD, Utah County — Electrical cords poke up like weeds through a concrete pad at what used to be the Geneva Steel casting area.

Nearby, a 20-foot-tall hunk of concrete and rusted rebar looms like a disheveled industrial haystack. The building used to be 40 feet tall, and the foundation goes another 40 feet into the ground.

"It took (crews) six weeks to get it down to 20 feet," said Dennis Astill, project manager and general counsel for Anderson Geneva LLC. "It's not gonna come down very easy."

What used to be the smoldering, smoking heart of Utah County has long since been closed, leveled and nearly forgotten.

But for developers of the Vineyard site, the Geneva Steel factory is present every day — in milelong concrete runways, cavernous holes and looming piles of steel-ribboned slag.

"People don't have an idea of the scale of this thing," Astill said. "It was an amazing piece of engineering."

Anderson Geneva LLC, plans to turn the 1,700 acres that was once home to a Utah County landmark into a new, vibrant center of growth, but they know it's a rocky, rebar-filled road.

In 1941, the U.S. government began construction on the steel plant in Vineyard to create plate steel for World War II shipbuilding.

After the war, the factory was sold to U.S. Steel for nearly $47 million. In 1987, Geneva Steel was purchased by a group of investors, including brothers Joe and Chris Cannon, and became Geneva Steel LLC. Joe Cannon is current editor of the Deseret News.

After the purchase, heavy debt and falling prices for steel affected the factory, and in 1999 the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The factory finally stopped producing steel in November 2001, and with dynamite blasts in July 2005, decades of history tumbled down.

By December of that year, Anderson Geneva LLC., had bought the land for $46 million.

It was a worthy investment, Astill says. A recent economy study the company commissioned predicted that at full buildout, the site will be worth close to $3 billion.

"That's 25 to 30 years from now," Astill said. "But it will be a very significant development."

From July 2005 to June 2007, crews tore down the plant. China purchased most of the steelmaking equipment and CST Environmental earned the demolition contract to clean up and recycle the leftover scrap metal. Astill said 90 percent of the material was recycled.

Several large mountains of steel byproduct, the slag — roughly 3.5 million tons of it — will also be "recycled," with any remaining steel pulled out of the molten rock and the remaining material used as fill for projects on the site and elsewhere, Astill said.

"Rather than fill up a landfill we plan to reuse everything we can," he said.

What's left

In what is now a field, developers shake their heads over a 400-ton blob of steel that looks like a giant black aspirin. The molten steel was left in a furnace when the factory shut down. Demolitionists simply cut the furnace away from the hardened metal.

Despite the rising prices for steel, the lump is just too heavy to move, Astill said.

A second glob was broken in half after months of work, but both halves were still too monstrous.

Looks like they'll be building roads around them, Astill joked. They can be landmarks to the once great Geneva Steel.

Along with building removal, the steel plant also left an ecological mark that Anderson Geneva LLC. is working hard to remediate.

"Probably 15 percent of the site has contaminated areas," Astill said. "Instead of being a great big site with a mess on it, it's in patches."

Of the 1,700 acres, nearly 900 are already cleaned up and remediated to appropriate state levels, Astill said. There were only three areas where hazardous waste had to be removed by a hazardous materials team, Astill said.

"They're moving along pretty good," said Allan Moore, environmental project manager for Utah's Hazardous Waste Management Section, and the manager working with the Geneva site. "They've got the north end, which used to be the old Geneva pipe mill area, north of 1600 North, pretty much completed."

Anderson Geneva LLC. has already divided the north area, zoned commercial or light industrial, into lots and sold and leased most of them. Some areas toward the north end may stay industrial or even heavy industrial if it's too difficult to remove impediments or clean up, Astill said.

The area south of 400 North is also fairly close to being cleaned up to residential levels, according to Moore.

"Overall, they're moving right along," he said.

Future of the site

In the next eight to 10 years, the Vineyard site should be completely ready for reuse, Astill said. With the proposed Vineyard Connector roadway coming through the area, the potential for light rail and an intermodal hub, Vineyard officials, transportation officials and developers have big plans.

However, areas like the casting area and rolling mills with the 20-foot-high rebar and concrete mess may not be tackled until someone approaches with a specific plan.

With feet-thick concrete walls and miles of concrete platforms, it's tough to justify expending energy without an end result in mind. But who knows, maybe someone could use a half-mile-long concrete runway, Astill jokes.

The project will also require some clever engineering as developers try to figure out how to install infrastructure like sewer, water and gas lines without digging through deep foundations.

"If you buy farm land, it's difficult to extend new utilities," Astill said. "Taking on a project like Geneva is 10 times (harder than) that. It's worse than starting from scratch. You're starting from negative."

It's slow work and Astill said he knows people wonder why it seems that nothing is happening.

"We haven't tried to be out with a big market campaign," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do. This is a great development project; it's just got some environmental challenges."

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