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Pool of toxic chemicals hinders plans for Ogden jail

The discovery of an underground pool of chemicals where Weber County had wanted to build its new 800-bed jail will hinder development plans at Defense Depot Ogden.

The chemicals were disposed of in the 1940s and 1950s and are still causing trouble at the former supply base.The proposed jail site, in the northwest corner of DDO adjacent to the Weber County Fairgrounds, is one of three toxic sites at the base. The base has been working to clean them up since the early 1980s, but they are still a barrier to developing the site.

Base Commander Lt. Col. Robert Brescia said he's very proud of DDO's record of toxic cleanup.

While the proposed jail site will take years to clean up, he said two other toxic sites on the base are much closer to a final cleanup.

Del Fredde, the environmental supervisor for the Base Realignment and Closure Committee that is supervising the base's transition to civilian use, said there is still plenty of empty ground to be developed at the base.

Brescia said the problems go back to the 1940s and 1950s when the attitude was "nobody will ever care."

If the military had a few truck-loads of benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, lead and industrial solvents to get rid of, they dug a hole and dumped it in, he said.

Those are the types of chemicals that got buried where the county wanted to build its jail.

Cleaning the site up, which began in 1992, involved removing 20,000 tons of soil and installation of a ground water treatment system. The system pumps water into the ground in one place and sucks it out at another, separates the chemicals and then pumps the water back in. The cleanup is expected to last until 2015.

The other two sites at the base aren't as bad.

One is near the headquarters and administration buildings on the base. Its contaminants are primarily pesticides and herbicides dumped at the base pesticide shop. Ground water treatment started at the site in 1992.

The third toxic site is north of the Ogden Nature Center in the southwest corner of the base.

The chemicals dumped there include chemical warfare agents and heavy metals.

Cleanup at that site included hauling out 1,270 tons of soil and a soil flushing system. Brescia said the site is expected to be cleaned up by 2005.