By Joe Katz
Ogden has a long history as a railroad hub. At one point, the local chamber of commerce’s motto was, “You can’t get anywhere without coming to Ogden.” Its location along the original Transcontinental Railroad brought the industry and commerce that easy access to rail provides. Ogden still has significant rail traffic, but over time heavy industry moved away from Ogden’s core, leaving a number of underutilized properties, or Brownfields. While these properties pose redevelopment challenges, they also provide opportunities for economic growth.
Brownfields are properties where uncertainties about environmental contamination — even the perception of contamination based on history or appearance — discourage reinvestment in and redevelopment of the property. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) offer a variety of tools to help interested parties chip away at these uncertainties, removing the questions and stigmas that impede redevelopment at these properties.
Ogden’s recent Brownfields project tackled environmental uncertainties at the historic Ogden Union Stockyards, established in approximately 1905. The 50-acre stockyards were a shipping point to on- and off-load livestock to the railroads. Over the course of time, millions of head of livestock passed through the facility. The stockyards were eventually closed in 1971, and the property slowly fell into disrepair. Parts of the property were used for various other purposes, including drum storage, container storage, engines, vehicles, scrap piles, and railroad ties, all of which created a significant amount of environmental uncertainty. Ogden’s ultimate vision for the stockyards was to transform the property into the Ogden Business Exchange, one of Utah’s first lifestyle business parks, but the Brownfields challenges had to be resolved first.
To address the environmental uncertainties at the site, Ogden City used funding from an EPA Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment grant — one of the tools available to inventory, characterize, and assess Brownfields sites — to perform a Phase 2 Site Assessment at the property. The assessment provided information the city needed to apply for an Enforceable Written Assurance (EWA) from DEQ. An EWA is another Brownfields tool that allows prospective purchasers of a property to purchase impacted property without some of the legal consequences that would otherwise follow. In many cases, lenders will not finance a property transaction until uncertainties have been resolved. An EWA becomes a tool to facilitate Brownfield property transactions.
EWAs require Reasonable Steps, which are simply actions the purchaser agrees to take to avoid making contamination problems at a property worse. Since the Phase 2 Assessment did not completely characterize the stockyards, a Reasonable Step included in the EWA was to complete response actions under the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) to further characterize the property. Ogden applied to the VCP in July 2014.
DEQ works in partnership, whenever possible, with an applicant under the VCP to successfully clean up the property. To assist the city and meet their scheduling requirements, the larger property was divided into three smaller phases so work could be completed on the highest priority areas first. Also, because enough data were gathered during the Phase 2 Assessment, a simultaneous characterization-remediation strategy was used to significantly speed up the remediation process. Finally, Ogden applied for and received a loan from the Wasatch Front Brownfields Coalition Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). The RLF is a Brownfields funding tool that provides low-interest loans for cleanup projects in Salt Lake and Weber Counties. The Ogden Business Exchange project is a great example of the synergies that can occur through the use of a combination of various Brownfields tools.
Field work commenced on Phase 1 in winter 2015 after a cleanup plan was developed and a public comment period completed. Upon completion of the work, a No Further Action letter was issued. This allowed construction of a new commercial facility that was completed and opened in 2016.
Field work on Phase 2 started in spring 2015. Work on Phase 2 was completed, and DEQ’s Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR) issued a second No Further Action letter allowing redevelopment of this phase to proceed unhindered. Field work on Phase 3 began in Fall 2015. DERR is reviewing the final reporting for this phase, and issuance of a site-wide Certificate of Completion is anticipated upon completion of final reporting, likely in early 2018.
Ogden City is on the verge of transforming this once blighted 50-acre site into the Ogden Business Exchange. Minutes from downtown, the new business park will not only provide a new tax base for the city but a recreation destination as well. Ogden City and its office of Community & Economic Development couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.
“The Utah DEQ played an important role in the Ogden Business Exchange, which is a significant redevelopment project in Ogden City. The project transformed the historic Ogden Union Stockyards, long vacant and blighted, into a state-of-the-art business park. Joining the DEQ’s Voluntary Clean-up Program allowed the City to access technical assistance, planning, and regulatory clarity that helped us to complete the project correctly and in a timely manner. The DERR team was very knowledgeable, flexible, and always willing to help – they were essential to the City’s efforts to return this brownfields site to a productive use.”
— Ogden City
The Voluntary Cleanup Program provides municipalities with a mechanism to clean up contaminated sites under a cooperative, regulatory-friendly framework. These cleanups mitigate the risks to human health and the environment and return contaminated lands to beneficial use. DEQ is happy to have played an important role in facilitating the development of the new Ogden Business Exchange. This transformation of formerly blighted land to a lifestyle business park promises to bring important economic and recreational opportunities to the people of Ogden.
Want to learn more about our Voluntary Cleanup Program? Visit our website for more information, and check out our Brownsfield newsletter to find out about our other VCP success stories.
I am a project manager in the Voluntary Cleanup Program. I have a chemistry degree from the University of Utah (yes, questioning my sanity for sticking with the subject beyond organic chemistry is completely normal. Believe me, I questioned my own sanity before every final exam). I am recently married and enjoy spending time with my wife (I guess if I did not, being married might be a little more complicated). Outside of work, I like learning, travel, and anything outdoors, especially hiking and landscape and wildlife photography.