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EPA: More money coming for Utah Superfund sites

By Mike Stark, Associated Press Writer | Posted - Apr. 15, 2009 at 5:37 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- More than $25 million in federal stimulus money will go to a Superfund site in Juab County to speed up the cleanup of hazardous waste.

The money is part of $582 million in recently approved stimulus funding that the Environmental Protection Agency said will be used to help deal with polluted sites in 28 states.

The money coming to Utah will supplement cleanup projects already under way.

The Eureka Mills Superfund site in Eureka includes 160 properties contaminated with waste from historic mining operations. The additional money will be used to stabilize and cap areas with hazardous waste and to build drainage systems to keep contaminated water from getting into clean areas.

Eureka Mayor Milt Hanks said he's hoping the extra money will mean the cleanup will be completed next year.

The town of 800 -- already suffering from double-digit unemployment and a lagging economy -- has struggled against the stigma of being on the federal Superfund list, those sites deemed among the most polluted and hazardous places in the country.

He's had trouble attracting new business to town because of the Superfund designation, something he thinks never should have happened in the first place. He said he's frustrated that the Superfund dollars are the only stimulus money his tiny town -- which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- has seen. Eureka is about 80 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

"Having this Superfund over with will be a boon to the city. We'll lose some employment but maybe we can gain some long term employment," Hanks said.

The EPA also said an additional $5 million will go to a 400-acre Superfund site in Davis County contaminated with PCE, a dry-cleaning solvent.

The money will be will be used to install underground equipment to keep the plume of contaminated groundwater from spreading. EPA officials said the cleanup will reduce the risk of contaminants getting to a municipal drinking water well and several private wells in the area.

The site is in Bountiful and Woods Cross, about 10 miles north of Salt Lake City.

Utah has 14 active Superfund sites.

The funding announced by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday is aimed at creating jobs for cleanup contractors, soil excavation companies, hazardous waste disposal facilities and labs that test samples to detect contamination.

Beyond the jobs, the money will supply -- at least temporarily -- much needed cash to a program that has struggled to find money to pay for cleanups. Since 2000, the program has suffered budget shortfalls, with money for the dwindling cleanup fund declining each year.

Congress in 1995 refused to renew the excise tax on hazardous chemicals and petroleum products that was supposed to pay for the majority of the Superfund cleanup costs. Today the fund has declined to $137 million, while costs of cleanup annually have exceeded the amount Congress has been willing to appropriate.

President Barack Obama in February called for injecting $1 billion into the Superfund program by reinstating the tax beginning in 2011, after the nation emerges from its current economic problems.

The result has been fewer Superfund sites being cleaned up.

Last year, the EPA did not have enough money to pay for cleanup projects at 10 sites. This year, without the stimulus money, the agency expected work at 15 sites to go unfunded.

The effect has been that many sites languish on the Superfund rolls. Since 1980, EPA has identified 1,596 hazardous waste sites. Today, there are still 1,264.


Associated Press Writer Dina Cappiello in Washington D.C. contributed to this story.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Mike Stark Writer

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