DEQ Helps Developers Turn Contaminated Properties Into Economic Prosperities

Workers addressing pollution at old Mayflower Mine site in Utah

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Environmental Response and Remediation recently oversaw the cleanup of the former Mayflower Mine in Wasatch County.

Photo from wikipedia showing mines in Park City, Utah.

Mining along the Wasatch Back was an important part of early 20th-century life in Utah. Addressing the environmental legacy of these mines is something DEQ is regularly involved with.

By McKinley Ball

When making a large purchase or a big decision, it’s important that you do your due diligence and research, for more background information, prior to making the purchase. For example, when purchasing a car, you may want to look into things such as gas mileage, smog rating, maintenance cost and common problems associated with that make and model. Doing this research could save a lot of headaches for you and possibly even future owners. A similar process may be used when a developer is looking to purchase and develop the land.

A recent example is the current cleanup of the former Mayflower Mine area being overseen by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR). 

It started with a prospective developer researching property in Utah. The property, located in Wasatch County off Highway 40 near the Jordanelle Reservoir and Heber City, was once home to the Mayflower Mine. After researching the property, the developer decided some further action needed to be taken before developing the land.

Several years ago, the developer contacted the DERR and the Voluntary Cleanup Program came into action.  First, however, an Enforceable Written Assurance (EWA) was needed. 

The EWA is issued prior to the acquisition of property and can give the developer peace of mind knowing that as long as the property is being cleaned to the designated standards and they follow established “Reasonable Steps,” they could have a defensible position should liability come into question. 

The voluntary cleanup begins by submitting an application to the VCP program. After the application is approved, the DERR oversees the project.  Unlike the EWA, the VCP Certificate of Completion is transferable to future owners and lenders.

In the case of the Mayflower project, the developer received an EWA and then applied it to the VCP.  After the site was accepted to the program, site characterization was initiated to better understand the property.  While the applicant was determining the extent of the contamination for mining-related metals, they also found petroleum that needed to be cleaned up.  A Remedial Action Plan (RAP) was submitted and accepted. As part of the cleanup, the developer is also working with the Division of Water Quality to obtain a UPDES permit for the project.  The DERR is coordinating with the parties as part of the overall cleanup process.

Due to the large size of the site, it was decided that the cleanup would take place in phases. Phase 1 consists of 433 acres—a proposed mixed-use commercial development—including a ski village with homes and access to the Deer Valley Resort.  Cleanup is currently underway on this section of the project with the hope to be ready for development in late 2020. The next phases will follow as the VCP process continues. 

The Mayflower project is a great example of the success that can be achieved using tools like the EWA and Voluntary Cleanup Program administered by the  DERR. For more information regarding brownfields and the VCP, visit the DEQ website.

I am currently interning with the Department of Environmental Quality while attending my final semester at Weber State University. I will be graduating in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. When I am working or doing homework I am playing sports or watching movies with my wife.