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From contamination to commercial hubs, how EPA Superfund sites are being transformed

Once contaminated Midvale site now bustling with businesses, residences

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MIDVALE — A 700-acre site in Midvale was once home to five smelters processing lead and copper ore, covered with blast furnaces, baghouses and smokestacks.

Decades of industrial activity infused the land and groundwater with heavy metal contamination, rendering it full of toxins dangerous to human health.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund initiative, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, transformed the landscape to a useable piece of property after cleanup, with remediation and monitoring that went on for more than a decade.

Avery Andreason, 6, plays basketball with her father, Shawn Andreason, at Bingham Junction Park in Midvale on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

Avery Andreason, 6, plays basketball with her father, Shawn Andreason, at Bingham Junction Park in Midvale on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Bingham Junction is now home to a park, 1,000 residences, and retail and commercial development that supports 600 jobs, $1.5 million in annual property tax revenues and a $131 million increase in the value of the property site.

The Midvale site was one of four highlighted in a release by the EPA, which works in conjunction with state agencies like the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and community partners like cities and redevelopment agencies.

Overall, approximately 1,000 Superfund sites are in reuse today — more than half the number of sites on the Superfund’s National Priorities List.

EPA has data on over 8,600 businesses at 529 of these sites, according to its release.

In fiscal year 2018 alone, these businesses generated $52.4 billion in sales, which is more than four times the amount EPA has spent at these sites. These businesses employed more than 195,000 people who earned a combined income of $13 billion. Over the last seven years, these businesses generated at least $263 billion in sales.

Much work remains to be done, however.

Hundreds of sites across the United States remain in the remediation stage and others have yet to make the list.

In Utah alone, there are 26 sites that were designated for the Superfund list since the program started in 1999. Among those still on the list are a 450-acre contaminated groundwater plume in Woods Cross and Bountiful, the Davenport and Flagstaff smelters site in Sandy and until recently, the Eureka Mills site in Juab County.

In 2018, that site was removed from the Superfund list.