A landowner and two construction companies have agreed - albeit reluctantly - to clean up a portion of the Weber River and restore wetlands on which hundreds of tons of debris have been illegally dumped.
Allen D. Kendell, who owns agricultural property along the river near Uintah, Weber County, has allowed contractors to dump debris in and around the waterway at various times since 1982, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report released this week.The Woods Cross office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found in late 1991 that about 9,500 square feet of the river and adjacent wetlands had been filled with unauthorized debris by Kap Brothers Excavating Co., Ogden, and Eddy L. Shaw Construction Co., Layton.
An EPA order directs Kendell and the two companies to submit a restoration plan for the removal of the debris, recontouring the site's slope and revegetating the area.
But Layne Kap, vice president of Kap Brothers Excavating, believes the order is unfair and unnecessary.
It's unfair, he said, because Weber County and the state of Utah are also guilty of dumping but were not investigated. And it's unnecessary because the wetlands aren't natural - they were created accidentally when crews excavated too deeply during the construction of I-84 in the early 1970s.
"It's hard to destroy a man-made wetland," Kap said.
Kap said his company, along with Eddy L. Shaw Construction, the state and the county, all brought fill to Kendell's land to protect it from the swollen Weber River during the floods of 1982 and 1983. The dumping continued after the floods because $50-per-ton tipping fees at the North Davis County landfill were prohibitive.
But federal environmental investigators have failed to go after the state and county, Kap said. "They targeted us because we are the only ones they caught dumping. We gave them evidence that the state and county were involved, but they just ignored us."
The EPA report states that Kap dumped concrete, dirt, rocks and trees, and Eddy L. Shaw Construction dumped trees, roots, and dirt at the site without getting the required permits under the federal Clean Water Act. When the corps caught the companies in the act, "both companies were still dumping, even though they had received corps cease-and-desist orders for filling another wetland nearby," the report states.
The illegal dumping has caused environmental damage "in a river corridor that the public values for the fishing, recreational and wildlife benefits it provides," said Max Dodson, water management division director for the EPA's regional office in Denver.
Kendell and the two contractors have agreed to submit a restoration plan to remove the debris, recontour the land and revegetate the area. The plan must be approved by EPA, which will also inspect the site after the restoration.
Kap estimates the job could cost $40,000 to $50,000. "That will shoot the crap out of our profits this year . . . That's a lot of cash."
But the cost is significantly less than it could be. The Clean Water Act provides penalties of up to $25,000 per day that the illegal fill remains in place.