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Two Utah cities will receive EPA grant to help revitalize areas blighted by industrial use

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Two Utah cities will receive EPA grant to help revitalize areas blighted by industrial use

May 21, 2024 | 8:12 pm ET
By Kyle Dunphey
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Two Utah cities will receive EPA grant to help revitalize areas blighted by industrial use
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The Expressway Landfill site in Spanish Fork, Utah. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Two cities in northern Utah are set to see a combined $1 million in federal funds to help assess areas that were polluted by heavy metals from landfills and mines. 

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced two $500,000 grants for Murray and Spanish Fork as part of the agency’s Brownfields program, which has provided almost $3 billion to clean up contaminated areas since 1995. 

“EPA’s Brownfields grants are supporting critical cleanup and redevelopment projects in Utah,”  EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker said in a statement. “Today’s funding will help community leaders in Murray and Spanish Fork address contamination in soil, water and outdoor spaces and create new businesses, housing and recreational opportunities.” 

In Spanish Fork, that money will be used to assess two areas designated as priority sites by the EPA: the Expressway Landfill and the Foundry.

The Expressway Landfill — described as a “site containing multiple former unregulated landfills” in a 2021 news release from the EPA — is a 40-acre site divided into 13 parcels. The site has been problematic for years, with the Utah County Health Department condemning it in 2001 due to methane gas leaking from the capped landfill, according to a Deseret News story at the time.  

In 2021, Spanish Fork was awarded $300,000 to assess and redevelop several contaminated sites, including the Expressway Landfill. According to the EPA, the landfill has elevated concentrations of lead, arsenic and chromium in the soil and benzene and arsenic in groundwater. 

The EPA says this latest round of funding will help with “further site investigation and cleanup planning to understand the environmental impacts preventing the property from being redeveloped.” 

“This grant will also give the city the opportunity to plan for the redevelopment of areas that are underutilized and have been used industrially,” said Spanish Fork Mayor Mike Mendenhall in a statement. “I thank the EPA for their grant funding and continued support as we work to make Spanish Fork a great place to live and work.” 

The second site is where the Spanish Fork-based company Foundry has been manufacturing industrial iron, steel and aluminum castings since 1884. Prior to environmental regulations,  hazardous chemicals like volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls were used at the site. Now, the EPA says the area needs to be assessed “to determine whether the site is safe for redevelopment.” 

In a news release, the EPA said Spanish Fork will use that $500,000 to “create opportunities for development, including affordable housing and new commercial spaces.” The agency hopes revitalization will help increase employment opportunities for locals while generating tax revenue.

In Murray, the $500,000 grant will also be used to assess two sites — the Creek Pocket Park and the Soccer Locker. 

The Creek Pocket Park is a vacant parcel that the city hopes to develop into a small park alongside Little Cottonwood Creek. The site is located near the now defunct Murray smelters, which was once the largest lead smelter in the country. In 1994 the EPA proposed listing the Murray smelters on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List, although that was never finalized, according to agency documents. 

Since then, two on-site smoke stacks have been demolished, with lead and arsenic contaminated soil being removed. The EPA continues to monitor the site, and the recent grant will help the city assess the prevalence of lead, asbestos, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals. 

Also located alongside Little Cottonwood Creek is a site called the Soccer Locker, a 2.7-acre parcel that according to prior EPA investigations has high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals that the agency says is likely mine waste. 

The assessment of the Soccer Loccer will help Murray develop it into a mix of affordable housing and commercial buildings “to improve employment opportunities and resident quality of life,” the EPA said in a news release. “Assessment of this site will revitalize a blighted property into a space that will relieve housing burdens and food deserts in the area.”