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Lawsuit claims Orem City illegally dumped junk, then sold it


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OREM -- A lawsuit filed Friday claims the City of Orem is responsible for years of illegal dumping on an enormous scale.

By one estimate, the junk and debris would have filled nearly 40,000 standard dump trucks. It also alleges the city buried it and sold it to an unsuspecting buyer.

Over the last two years, developers have been forced to dig a mini-Grand Canyon and fill it back in again. It's the site of the old Orem City Public Works building, and the new owners have started calling it "Utah's Version of Ground Zero."

After buying the property, the developers had to haul out debris, junk and trash amounting to more than 300,000 cubic yards. "That's about a third of what the twin towers were when they were demolished and hauled off," developer Bill Fairbanks said.

They found at least 15 acres of debris buried as much as 55 feet deep: 40,000 dump truck loads of broken concrete and asphalt, scrap metal, pipes and the like. The lawsuit alleges it was buried illegally, over many decades, by Orem Public Works employees.

Developer Paul Washburn said, "I suspect it just happened little-by-little as different street projects were completed and material needed to be disposed of. It was a convenient place to dispose of material."

Aside from pieces of old roads and buildings, Fairbanks and Washburn have found car bumpers, bicycles, tires, water heaters, washing machines, car engines, medical waste, refrigerators, toilets and more.

"We were misled. We feel like we didn't understand it was there, first of all; and second of all, we feel like they had some responsibility to take care of it, and they didn't do that," Fairbanks said.

Except for a little pile that was left over, it was all hauled away over an 18-month period at a cost of $3 million. "We're very disappointed that we've had to incur these kind of expenses," Washburn said.

The developers allege the dumping violated many ordinances, regulations and laws. Their attorney, Dan McDonald, told us, "If a private citizen had done what Orem City did, I have no doubt that Orem City would be seeking to enforce those ordinances against them.

Orem City officials denied our requests for an interview. A city attorney would say only, "We don't feel like we've done anything inappropriate."

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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