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Utah Power has accepted the lead role in finishing the cleanup of the Utah Power-American Barrel Superfund site.

The 2.5-acre site near Jackson Elementary has soil contaminated with creosote and coal-tar wastes. About 50,000 barrels of organic compounds, degreasers and solvents were removed from the site in 1988.Utah Power and the Environmental Protection Agency last week formalized an agreement to complete the cleanup.

EPA project manager David Ostrander said Utah Power displayed "good corporate responsibility" in accepting the lead role among the parties deemed liable for the $10.5 million cleanup.

"It has been a lengthy process," said Verl Topham, Utah Power's senior vice president and general counsel, "but we believe our cooperation has speeded the cleanup and ultimately saved money."

A coal gasification plant operated at the site from 1873 to 1908, and from 1920 to 1955, Utah Power treated power poles there with creosote. Barrels stored there from 1957 to 1988 by the now-defunct American Barrel and Cooperage Co. leaked small amounts of chemicals and pesticides into the ground.

Utah Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen said the worst materials are creosote and coal-tar wastes from the gas plant.

The cleanup plan requires Utah Power to oversee removal of the top 10 feet of mildly contaminated soils. Most will be shipped to a Tooele County contractor, Pacific West Recycling, which will use it to make asphalt for roads.

While no soil defined by law as "hazardous" has been found, the agreement provides for any discovered later to be sent to an incinerator, Ostrander said. Utah Power also is required to drill wells to extract vapors from the soil and to monitor the groundwater for five years.

Utah Power has invested $4.2 million in the cleanup and anticipates the final bill, including legal fees, will approach $17.5 million. It could receive some reimbursement from other parties that once owned part of the site or contributed to the contamination.