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Plan to clean up Murray smelter site praised

An $11.6 million proposal for cleaning up the old 141-acre American Smelting and Refining Co. (ASARCO) site west of State Street got a warm reception from about 30 neighboring property owners during a public hearing here Wednesday night.

Area residents had few complaints about the cleanup, which mainly will be funded with environmental mitigation money set aside by ASARCO successors.They will now have about a month to comment on the plan before the Environmental Protection Agency takes the next step, selecting a preferred cleanup alternative and approving a "record of decision" that will launch the environmental restoration of the smelter site.

That decision also will clear the way for a major new commercial development in downtown Murray, north of 5300 South.

The long-awaited cleanup, to be supervised by Murray in cooperation with the EPA, is expected to get under way late next spring or early next summer barring unforeseen delays.

It calls for the removal of contaminated soils from 13 private yards near the smelter site, the capping of other surface contamination throughout the site and the long-range restoration of Little Cottonwood Creek water quality.

A prime goal of the cleanup will be to remove topsoil, ore, flue dust and slag that contain unhealthy levels of lead and arsenic.

Most of the area residents who attended the hearing will be directly affected by the cleanup, which will have one other main goal - to keep the smelter site off the EPA's "Superfund" list.

Bonnie LaVelle, smelter cleanup project manager for the EPA, said a health analysis of the area found arsenic and lead levels at the smelter site are not acceptable for potential residential uses of the property.