Working Together for a Successful Cleanup Leads to Revitalization and Economic Opportunity for a Utah Community

By Craig Boehr

The Midvale Slag Superfund Site, located in Midvale City, Utah, is adjacent to the city’s downtown area and is about twelve miles south of Salt Lake City. Smelters operated on the site from 1871 through 1958, which resulted in the contamination of soil and groundwater with heavy metals. EPA representatives, the Midvale City government, and the site’s owner all worked together to successfully clean up the site and transform the once contaminated property into a thriving multi-use redevelopment project that has revitalized the local economy.

As is often the case, reuse projects that involve liability concerns require creative uses of enforcement tools in order to secure the successful clean up of sites. At Midvale Slag, EPA’s attorneys and project managers negotiated a consent decree with Midvale City and the site’s current owner, which was signed in 2004. The consent decree included innovative provisions that allowed the owner to pay for cleanup and be incrementally reimbursed with money from a special account set up for the site. The account was funded through settlements with responsible parties (those who had contributed to the contamination at the site), and the money could only be used for cleanup purposes. This enforcement approach enabled the site’s owner to clean the site up at a lower cost and laid the groundwork for Midvale City’s vision for future development.

The consent decree also established long-term stewardship principles at the site by clarifying parties’ ongoing cleanup roles and responsibilities, and addressed the concerns of potential future owners by including a section on the bona fide prospective purchaser (BFPP) liability protection. Under Superfund, BFPPs are not liable as an owner/operator for cleanup costs, reducing a potential barrier to future redevelopment at a contaminated site.

Through these efforts, a once stagnant, contaminated property has been transformed into a valuable part of Midvale City. Currently, the site includes:

  • A 95,000-square-foot grocery store,
  • 175,000 square feet of Gold and Silver LEED-certified office space,
  • More than 1,000 completed residential units,
  • A Utah Transit Authority (UTA) light rail station,
  • An 18-acre park with local and regional trails, and
  • 20 acres of open space with a wetland mitigation area.

According to Midvale officials, it is estimated that the cleanup has already resulted in approximately 600 new jobs and about $1.5 million in annual property tax revenues. For more information on how the EPA helped to turn the Midvale Slag site into a community asset, please see our recently-published case study.

About the author: Craig Boehr is an attorney in the Office of Site Remediation Enforcement, which is the enforcement office for the Superfund program.