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Salt Lake City toxic plume proposed for Superfund

Published September 14, 2012 1:37 pm

Environment • Defunct dry-cleaning facility is suspected source of PCE taint.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A plume of solvent that has contaminated the groundwater in a Yalecrest neighborhood would be cleaned up under the federal Superfund program, according to a proposal Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The tetrachloroethylene, a dry-cleaning and degreasing chemical known as PCE, was first detected in the irrigation water at the nearby Mount Olivet Cemetery. And, though no one is certain what caused the contamination, the suspected source is a defunct dry-cleaning facility at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The water is not used for drinking, but nearby residents are concerned about PCE impacts on their pets and yards.

"Hopefully, this is not going to be news in these communities," said Salt Lake City's environmental manager Renee Zollinger, who said the city supports the Superfund process as a way to clear up concerns about the plume's environmental and health impacts. "The city wants to make sure that everything is addressed, and this seems a prudent way to go. There is general [public] support to get under way."

The city, the EPA, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and the Salt Lake Valley Health Department formally proposed adding the 700 South and 1600 East area to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites to make it eligible for an in-depth assessment and cleanup, along with federal funds needed to do the work. Based on previous testing, the area of contamination appears to be around 300 acres, but that could grow or shrink, depending on the site studies, said Zollinger.

The government agencies "are committed to protecting the health and well-being of the residents affected by this contamination," said Ryan Dunham, EPA site assessment manager. "Superfund is the best tool we have to ensure the source area and the impacts associated with this contamination are comprehensively addressed."

For the next 60 days, the EPA is requesting public comments on the proposal.

To learn more about the site, go online to http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/ut/700southpce/index.html.

For more information on how sites get onto the priority list, go to http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm.

Comments can also be mailed to:

Docket Coordinator, Headquarters

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

CERCLA Docket Office (Mail Code 5305T)

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20460

202-566-0276 Information about the National Priorities List and the proposed East Bench site:

For the next 60 days, the EPA is requesting public comments on the proposal. To learn more about the site, go online to http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/ut/700southpce/index.html. For more general information on how sites get onto the priority list, go to http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm. In addition, Salt Lake City invites dialog about the plume at its online City Hall: http://www.slcgov.com/opencityhall.

Comments can also be mailed to:

Docket Coordinator, Headquarters

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

CERCLA Docket Office (Mail Code 5305T)

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20460

202-566-0276