Investigators take on east side Superfund groundwater site
Cleanup • Officials to address residents Thursday evening on mitigation effort.
Published: March 12, 2014 12:09PM
Updated: March 11, 2014 10:27PM

Federal and state agencies are moving forward with the assessment and cleanup of a contaminated groundwater plume on Salt Lake City’s east side that was added to the Superfund cleanup list last year.

Environmental officials will meet Thursday evening with residents concerned about groundwater contaminated by tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a man-made chemical commonly used in dry cleaning.

The plume is believed to be about 300 acres in size and generally located between Guardsman Way and 1100 East downslope from the Veterans Administration Hospital. Concentrations of PCE were found to be 60 times the limit for drinking water. In high concentrations, the chemical can cause dizziness and headaches, nausea, motor difficulties and even death.

Investigators hired by the V.A. are beginning to formulate a “remedial investigation work plan” and will make a presentation and hold a question-and-answer session with residents Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the McGillis School, 668 E. 1300 South.

The meeting is being hosted by the East Central Community Council, according to Chairwoman Esther Hunter. It is open to all Salt Lake City residents and property owners.

“We’re grateful the V.A. is taking responsibility and we’re fortunate they are leading the cleanup,” she said.

The work plan is the first step toward more accurately defining the plume and seeking ways to mitigate its impacts, said D. Lynne Welsh, the remedial manager for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in Salt Lake City.

The V.A. has taken responsibility for the contamination and cleanup, she said. The chemical has “vapor intrusive impacts” and can seep into homes.

“PCE is a volatile compound,” Welsh said. “We want to make sure it doesn’t get into people’s basements.”

Investigators will inspect residential housing with the permission of owners or tenants, Welsh said. Residents can sign up for inspections at Thursday’s meeting.

The inquiry will look at various aspects of groundwater in the area and must also take into account housing foundations. Because foundations vary from structure to structure it’s important that investigators evaluate as many as possible, Welsh said.

The probe will be followed by a feasibility study that will lead eventually to a mitigation plan.

The fact that the V.A. is moving forward is good news, said Tom Daniels, remedial project manager for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The state will provide support and oversight on the project, he said. “It’s our job to look out for the concerns of the state and its residents,” he said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency also is involved in the project.

The contamination was discovered in the 1990s near the irrigation well for Mount Olivet Cemetery. In 2004, Salt Lake City removed a drinking-water well from service when trace amounts of PCE were discovered there.

csmart@sltrib.com

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Find out more

Residents are invited to a meeting on Thursday at 6:30 p.m., McGillis School, 668 E. 1300 South, for answers to contamination questions. Topics will include:

Cleanup plans and time frames

Properties to be tested (with owner permission)

Impacts on property values and title listings

Resident testing sign-up.

What to do if you dig in your yard