State and city officials said this week a recent study of groundwater pollution at the old Murray Smelter site had confirmed pockets of arsenic in the shallow aquifer.
However, Murray City Attorney Craig Hall refused to release results of the study, saying the conclusions were preliminary and wouldn't be available in final form for several weeks.Jack DeMann, executive assistant to Mayor Lynn Pett, said this week that some arsenic is showing up at the 141-acre study site that hadn't been previously indicated.
"We can't tell if earlier reports are in error or if something is going on that liberates material from time to time," he said.
City officials said they are not alarmed because they know of no one who is using the shallow aquifer either for irrigation or culinary use. The area of contamination is 50 to 60 feet below the ground's surface and is separated from Murray's deep aquifer and culinary water supply by 300 to 400 feet of clay. To date, there has been no evidence of contamination in Murray's deep aquifer.
Perhaps the major concern for the city at this time is possible runoff from the site, owned by American Smelting and Refining Co.
"We need to remove the source (of contamination) as soon as possible so that it doesn't find its way to Little Cottonwood Creek," DeMann said. "There are some areas where the levels are quite high - above allowable amounts."
DeMann said a public hearing on the issue will be held once enough information is collected to make intelligent and reasoned responses to residents' questions.
Utah Department of Environmental Quality scientist Michael Storck said arsenic had been found in the top 20 or 30 feet of the aquifer. Indications are that lead contamination at the site has remained for the most part in the soil. Recommendations on how to remove the contaminants won't be made until a risk assessment is completed.
Based on layouts and physical evidence, Storck said researchers think they have found the area where arsenic was bagged at the site. Arsenic was a by-product of the smelting process and was used in insecticides and weapons.
Pett said last week if the source of contamination turns out to be an old bagging facility, it might be possible to excavate the contaminated soil and remove it. He said he hoped the city could begin to solve the problem before he leaves office.
"This is one of the only areas of development left in the city," Pett said, adding that he doubted there would be much room for expansion in Murray's future via annexation.
"My feeling is that Murray will never be much bigger than it is now," he said.
In February, officials said as many as a dozen sites in the area surrounding the old smelter might be contaminated with lead or arsenic. The smelter is on 5300 South between State and 300 West.