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Murray Journal

Contaminants create costly conundrum for Murray

Mar 11, 2020 01:31PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Contaminants, likely from the Utah Ore Sampling Mill (pictured), caused a storm drain project to jump by $294,000.

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Murray’s industrial past has come back to haunt the city, and it had to dip into its reserves to remove contaminants from a residential neighborhood. The City Council approved the transfer of $294,000 from its reserve accounts to the general fund to pay for the Utahna Storm Drain Project.

The original scope of the project was to address an ongoing flooding problem that has existed for homes on Utahna Drive for many years. To resolve the flooding issue, the city elected to install a storm drain from Utahna Drive through the rail corridor and across 300 West (Commerce Drive), to reach the drainage basin at 5680 South.

The primary factor that caused higher costs for this project was the discovery of some contaminated soil. As the city started to enlarge the drainage basin, the earth being removed was sent for contamination testing. The test results revealed a high level of lead in the soil. Due to this finding, additional expenses were incurred to properly dispose of the soil in compliance with all safety standards.

“Another factor in going over budget is the increasing cost of construction, and bids are coming in higher than anticipated,” Public Works Director Danny Astill said.

Utahna Drive runs parallel to Commerce Drive, where the old Utah Ore Sampling Mill sits, the last remnant of Murray’s smelter industries. Nearby was the ASARCO Smelter, which was forced to reconfigure to higher smokestacks after farmers complained about the impact it was having on their crops in the early part of the 20th century.

Astill told the City Council at the Committee of the Whole meeting that the increased cost was not only due to change orders above initial bid totals but also to the additional transportation costs of hauling contaminants away. Tipping fees (or gate fees to dispose of waste in a landfill) were $225,000, in addition to the reconfiguration of four sewer laterals and reconstruction of a parking lot.

“The current construction bidding climate is unpredictable for many reasons, including a labor shortage in construction jobs. The city works with engineering consultants to develop estimates for large infrastructure improvements,” the Mayor’s Office Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Heaps said.  “We consider the costs of past, similar projects; and the initial project budget is based on this information. Murray City is seeing a pattern of increased costs on most city projects, infrastructure and otherwise.”

“Sometimes, there are unforeseen issues, such as contaminated soil, that cannot be predicted but must be addressed during the course of the project. Unfortunately, this may mean that not as many projects will be funded as costs continue to increase.”

The project was meant to relieve the flooding of houses on Utahna Drive caused by high-intensity storms. It included boring under the TRAX rails from 5670 S. 300 West to 5750 S. Utahna Drive; installing a storm drain from 5750 S. Utahna Drive, north to its cul-de-sac; replacing an 18-inch pipe with a 48-inch pipe along 300 West and feeding into a nearby detention basin; and, enhancing the detention basin. The project is 98% finished, with some remaining landscaping to be completed in the spring.

Contaminated soil has vexed the city at the Ore Sampling Mill. The mill crushed ore samples that were bound for the smelters and analyzed for content and quality. Smelters decided on the samples, whether to buy larger quantities of the ore.

As the city has tried to encourage the development of the property, assessment of the soil has found minerals like zinc, cadmium, antimony, arsenic, and bismuth, which caused it to become an archived Superfund site. Trace elements of uranium have also been found.

The city is pursuing remediation efforts, as the property is blighted but sits on a prime property for redevelopment.

Astill told the council that despite the challenges, the contractor, COP Construction, saved the city money with other cost-saving efforts on the project.