Superfund sites are areas designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as being contaminated by hazardous waste. Sites like these are located all over the nation, and it can take several years before remediation takes place. Because there are so many of these sites, the EPA has to make a priority list of which ones need immediate action. Depending on the severity of the pollutants, some sites are taken care of right away. But after superfund sites are cleaned up, are they really safe enough for public use?
Currently, construction is underway to revitalize an ex-superfund site in Midvale, Utah. The site was previously a smelter industry, which contaminated the location with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. In 1990, the EPA designated this area for cleanup, and in May 2008, the EPA announced that it was safe for reuse.
While this site’s past may have been toxic to the environment, it’s future is eco-friendly. Plans are underway to transform this site so it has offices, apartments, restaurants and even outdoor enhancements like walking trails and green spaces. The land will now be used in an efficient and safe way, which will benefit the Salt Lake Valley that surrounds it. There are no major concerns about turning this site into a public area, unless homeowners dig down 10 to 15 feet, but this is not a normal need for most homeowners.
While not all superfund sites will have a greener future, this one will. The remediation processes to clean these sites are involved and can take years simply because there are so many of them around the nation. However, the Midvale site gives hope that other sites will eventually reach a point where they will be able to be reused.
It’s up to cities to determine the best fit for the sites. Knowing that the previous company or industry caused contamination and pollution should deter cities from allowing the same types of companies and industries to reuse the land. Ex-superfund sites have the potential to bring cities back together, and if the right choice is made, the site can improve rather than damage to the surrounding land and concern to residents.