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Federal environmental regulators are investigating reports of illegal dumping of concrete materials that are contaminating the wetlands at the Jordan Narrows.
Acting on a report from the public, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers investigator obtained video Jan. 7 of slurry being poured onto property owned by Owell Precast, a Bluffdale company that supplies concrete and pre-formed building products to Utah contractors. The company's large compound borders the Jordan River at Point of the Mountain.
"It appears to be mostly concrete rubble and concrete washout slurry mix being dumped," according to a brief report on a spill database maintained by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Such wastes, primarily leftovers from construction jobs, contain lime, a caustic substance with a high alkalinity (or pH) that could disrupt the chemistry of the wetlands or the Jordan River should it migrate that far.
The extent of the environmental damage remains unclear and no cleanup has been ordered, but Corps investigators have taken numerous pH samples from the impacted area.
"Hopefully the wetlands were doing their job and filtering the contaminants before they reached the river," said Ken Champagne, an enforcement officer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "We are taking a hard look at it because it involves the discharge of fill material."
The material was dumped down a bank above the Jordan River on the southwestern edge of the Owell property, according to coordinates listed in the spill report. The spot is across the river from the Apostolic United Brethren Church, immediately west of Owell's main building and adjacent to an irrigation canal.
Leftover concrete forms also were piled up at the location.
Champagne is probing the incident as a possible violation of the Clean Water Act, which prohibits dumping of dredge and fill materials into "waters of the United States" without a permit issued by the Army Corps under the law's section 404.
Owell had no such permit nor any active permits on file with Salt Lake County or DEQ at the time of the discovery. The company has since applied for an industrial storm water permit from the Utah Division of Water Quality, according to director Walt Baker.
He suspected Owell also would need to get a solid waste permit.
"From what I can see, there is waist-high debris piles," Baker siad. "If that's the case and you start discarding stuff in your backyard, you can't do that beyond a year. You have to get it to a dump or solid waste disposal site or get a permit to permanently dispose of it on your property."
Bluffdale city officials were unaware of the EPA probe and had no knowledge of possible problems with Owell's environmental compliance.
"As far as I know, we haven't had any complaints," said City Manager Mark Reid. The city is resolving a dispute with Owell over a building permit, but that is not related to the concrete waste.
Owell, headquartered at 16120 South Pony Express Road, changed its name to Olympus Precast in January. Company co-owner Bill Ashton declined to comment.