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Ogden, Smith and Edwards reach accord to help cover $5.09M Swift site cleanup

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 30, 2023
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The former Swift building in west Ogden along the Weber River, now demolished, in an undated photo.
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Containers of tar sit on the grounds of the Swift building on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Ogden.
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The site of the former Swift complex in west Ogden along the Weber River, photographed Oct. 8, 2023.
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The grounds of the Swift building, pictured Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in Ogden.
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Gail Paige of Montana, left, and Kim Roberts of Ogden, right, empty containers of a leak detector into a tub on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at the Swift building in Ogden.

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal officials, Ogden City and Smith and Edwards Co. reps have reached a tentative agreement to cover the $5.09 million incurred by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in cleaning the ex-Swift buildings in 2019.

Per the agreement, outlined in paperwork filed in late September in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Smith and Edwards, which long owned the buildings in the shadow of the 24th Street viaduct in west Ogden, would pay $2.29 million. The Ogden Redevelopment Agency, part of city government, would pay $300,000 and a mix of federal defense organizations, including the departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force, would pay $2.29 million.

“Considerable amounts of trash, debris and abandoned containers storing hazardous materials were located throughout the site property,” the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Enforcement Section wrote in a Sept. 29 court filing seeking resolution of the issue. The city acquired the 7.22-acre site in 2017 with the aim of redeveloping it.

The old, red brick Swift building and others around it at the center of the issue — since demolished — were the focus of an intense cleanup effort in 2019 after a wide range of hazardous materials were found stored inside them. The materials had been acquired by Smith and Edwards as part of the purchase of other military surplus items from U.S. defense agencies meant to be sold at the retailer’s outlets.

“Between 1965 through 1990, (Smith and Edwards) entered into at least 88 purchase contracts with (the Defense Logistics Agency) for the acquisition of military surplus materials. Included in these materials were a large number of containers of hazardous substances that were found abandoned at the site by EPA,” reads the Sept. 29 filing. In all, it goes on, the EPA disposed of 59,593 containers with hazardous substances and treated 18,996 more containers with hazardous materials onsite.

Reps from the Ogden City and Smith and Edwards didn’t immediately respond to queries Monday seeking comment.

Ogden City acquired the ex-Swift complex at 390 W. Exchange Road in 2017 for $400,000 from Utah-Smith, previously owned by the late Bert Smith, who headed the Smith and Edwards operation. The aim all along has been to redevelop the site.

Even after the 2019 EPA cleanup, though, and demolition of the Swift structures, the city faced additional costs in cleaning the site where the buildings sat. Last year, city officials allocated $2.08 million to dig up a leaking petroleum tank where the buildings once sat and shore up the adjacent bank of the Weber River.

City officials didn’t immediately offer an update on the status of those additional cleanup initiatives or efforts to market the site.

Among the contaminants found inside the old buildings were benzene, mercury, hydrofluoric acid, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonium hydroxide, calcium hydride, rat poison, isopropyl alcohol, cesium 137 and other containers labeled flammable, corrosive or explosive, reads the Sept. 29 filing.

A comment period is now in effect to allow the public to sound off on the proposed resolution, called a consent decree. The period started Oct. 10 and goes through Nov. 9.

After Nov. 9, U.S. officials will review any comments in determining whether to seek court action deeming the consent decree final judgement in the matter.


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