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IHC unveils details of Murray hospital

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MURRAY — Against the backdrop of heavy equipment, Intermountain Health Care officials on Monday unveiled details about a $350 million hospital campus where the Murray smokestacks once stood.

The announcement was accompanied by the EPA's proclamation that all remedial construction cleanup of the former Superfund site had been completed.

That designation now allows IHC to proceed with plans for construction of the campus, with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for as early as a year from now.

Once the dominant feature of Murray's skyline, the twin smokestacks were a thriving part of the area's smelter industry until it ceased operation in the 1950s.

The stacks were toppled in August 2000 under a demolition plan executed by the stacks' owner, American Smelting and Refining Co. and approved by the EPA.

Cleanup of the contaminated property at 5300 S. State has taken place since then, with the majority of the arsenic-laden bricks stored in a lined, above-ground repository that has been paved over with UTA's TRAX parking lot and a new road, Cottonwood Street.

"This is a big day for the EPA and a big day for all of us," said Dale Vodehnal, regional supervisor of the agency's remedial program. "We're finished here, the work is complete and we can move on and put it back to productive use."

IHC's medical campus will replace Cottonwood Hospital in Murray and LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Gary Pehrson, IHC's regional vice president and chief executive officer of the urban central region, said both hospitals are hemmed in on 18-acre sites that make it impossible to grow.

The 100-acre site at Murray will allow the organization to build a "breathtaking" facility that incorporates trauma care, organ transplant, a medical research teaching institute and a cardiac program, among other things.

"This will be the foremost medical center in the United States and possibly, the world," Pehrson said.

The facility will have 350 beds, 100 more for out-patient care and make use of 1 million square feet of space that will feature "healing gardens" to enhance patient recovery.

When he first heard the former smokestack site pitched as a possible location for the IHC campus, Pehrson admitted he was surprised.

"A smelter site for a hospital?"

But Pehrson was among many officials Monday who lauded the cooperative efforts of dozens of government agencies and private companies that ensured the property was restored so it could be returned to a productive use.

That process began in 1990 when the EPA approached Murray City to be the lead agency on the effort to get the site cleared of contaminants.

Once the stacks were down, ASARCO removed 80,000 cubic yards of arsenic laden bricks.

Although the area was destined to become a retail development project called Chimney Ridge, that proposal fell through, and IHC stepped in. The site will also include a Costco warehouse store.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com