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Salt Lake City Toxic Plume May Get Superfund Status

A toxic plume that has contaminated the groundwater in a Yalecrest neighborhood for more than 20 years may be cleaned up under the federal Superfund program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency submitted a proposal Friday to add the groundwater plume to the National Priorities List of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.  The Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Salt Lake Valley Health Department, and city of Salt Lake all support the EPA Superfund proposal. 

The plume was first discovered in 1990 in the irrigation water of Mount Olivet Cemetary. The well water contained a dry-cleaning and degreasing chemical known as PCE at levels above federal drinking water standards.  The suspected source is a defunct dry-cleaning facility at the nearby Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.  EPA site assessment manager Ryan Dunham says the contaminant has not been detected in local drinking water, but that could change.  And, he says, recent inspections have revealed shallow groundwater contamination on the east bench which indicates some possible new exposure pathways. 

“There is the risk for it to continue to migrate and potentially impact public water sources,” Dunham told KUER, “Also, because we’re in a densely populated urban area, there is potential if it continues to migrate in the shallow groundwater, it could put additional homes and residents at risk through the process of vapor intrusion.” 

Dunham says PCE could potentially leak into homes in gaseous form, but he says more study is needed to determine if residents are at risk.  Inclusion on the National Priorities List will make the site eligible for assessment and cleanup through the Superfund process. It will also mandate the availability of federal funds.  The public comment period on this proposal is open for 60 days.

Those interested in commenting on the proposed NPL listing can submit comments on-line at identified by FDMS Docket #EPA-HQ-SFUND-2012-0647.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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