SALT LAKE CITY — A Midvale site once home to more than six decades of smelting and ore milling operations was highlighted in a recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an example of a success story on the “environmental justice” front.
The Sharon Steel site, home to industrial waste containing lead and arsenic, was on the federal agency’s Superfund list, but in 2018 was deemed one of the areas in the country with the greatest redevelopment and commercial potential.
An official groundbreaking for what’s now dubbed Jordan Bluffs was held last year in Midvale, described as an overburdened community in the 2019 EPA Environmental Justice Progress Report.
“Among our accomplishments, EPA made notable progress in accelerating the remediation of Superfund sites to address environmental risk. Last year, we completed more Superfund hazardous waste cleanups than any other year,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.
The release notes that when Jordan Bluffs is developed, it will bring affordable housing, jobs and other benefits to the community.
The 268-acre site is now capped with a barrier after more than 30 years of remediation. It is flanked by the Jordan River on the west, 7800 South on the north, Midvale’s city boundary on the south and Holden Street and Main Street on the east.
Donna Kemp Spangler, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said the EPA funding is critical for cleaning up legacy contamination from industrialized sites.
“It certainly doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t see immediate progress,” she said, noting three decades of wrangling with the waste issues. “The Superfund money helps us to get it cleaned up more quickly and put it to beneficial use, which is good for the economy, the health of the environment and for the community’s well-being.”
EPA’s environmental justice report emphasizes where and how the federal government is directing its attention to vulnerable, under served or indigenous communities in terms of environmental challenges.
In 2017, it formed a Superfund Task Force to help communities conquer contaminated sites. The task force held or participated in more than 2,000 meetings and had 4,025 in-person meetings or interviews with affected community members. It also distributed more than 1,250 fact sheets, mailings, postcards, advertisements or newsletters that reached more than 200,000 people living near the contaminated sites.
It certainly doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t see immediate progress... The Superfund money helps us to get it cleaned up more quickly and put it to beneficial use, which is good for the economy, the health of the environment and for the community’s well-being.
–Donna Kemp Spangler, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Nearly $30 million was given in “targeted airshed grants” to communities struggling with fine particulate pollution. Of those communities, both Salt Lake City and Provo received nearly $3 million to assist residents to change out wood-burning appliances. Logan received nearly $6.4 million to replace old diesel trucks with less polluting vehicles as well as to replace wood stoves.
Based on a national emissions inventory, wood smoke makes up 5.4% of fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5 and local research found that wood smoke was particularly problematic in Utah’s Cache Valley.
The report also detailed the success of the agency’s “Brownsfield” grants. In fiscal year 2019, it distributed 151 grants totaling $64.6 million to provide communities with help to assess, clean up and redevelop underutilized properties.
Examples of previous recipients include Salt Lake City for remediation of the North Temple corridor as well as Ogden, which was looking to remove petroleum and other hazardous substances from its inner city core.