SALT LAKE CITY — Bombs, corrosive material, toxic substances and all sorts of other environmentally hazardous material occupied the Ogden Swift Building for years but have been safely removed under a Superfund success story highlighted in an annual report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Tuesday report detailing the accomplishments of the federal agency, in conjunction with its state and local partners, emphasized that 27 sites across the country were either deleted or deleted in part from the National Priorities List in 2019.
“When a site is on the National Priorities List, it should be a priority. Some of these sites have been lingering for decades,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a teleconference. “We have accelerated cleanup of sites across the country.”
In fact, the removal or partial removal of those 27 sites from the priorities list last year marks the largest number of successful cleanups in the agency’s history since 2001.
Wheeler said the transformation of these sites mean they can now be put to community use, whether it be for redevelopment, the fostering of a honey bee farm, a wildlife refuge or city park.
In its 40th year, the Superfund program that addresses former mining and smelting sites, contaminated and abandoned manufacturing plants and other environmental hazards left from industrial activity has successfully removed 424 sites across the country from its priority list.
One of those sites that came off the list in 2019 includes the Intermountain Waste Oil Refinery in Bountiful.
In west Ogden, the EPA used its cooperative agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard and tapped its strike teams to work on the cleanup of the former meat packing plant that later was used to house surplus military items. At some point it was in control of a chemical manufacturing company, which later abandoned the building.
It is now owned by the city of Ogden, which wanted the hazardous waste and contamination removed because of the building’s proximity to the banks of the Weber River and with the hope the property could someday be put to beneficial community use.
The effort began in March last year and involved the removal of 3,280 cubic yards of debris and the recycling of 780 cubic yards of metal.
The hazardous material was moved to a staging area in the meat packing building for sampling and segregation. Overall, 4,030 samples were collected and tests performed on 4,024 of those samples.
In addition to the removal of waste, the EPA oversaw the installation of an onsite wastewater collection system to further control contamination.
Wheeler said the federal agency has stepped up its aggressiveness when it comes to the cleanup of sites like that of Ogden and elsewhere across the country.
“In the past some of these sites would have had a plan of just containment,” Wheeler said, adding that groundwater projects formerly included simply a tactic of pump and treat.
“We did not have a goal of getting it cleaned up. ... We are changing that. We are now looking at specifically how we can get those sites cleaned up. We are no longer satisfied with containing waste within a site area.”
The project is now is the hands of Utah Department of Environmental Quality, which is in a cooperative agreement with EPA for removal of asbestos and remaining remediation.