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Project Sampling Activities, 2015-2017

Description And History

The 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume site is located on the East Bench in Salt Lake City, Utah. The plume is located generally within the area bounded by 500 South and Michigan Avenue and between Guardsman Way and 1100 East. Click HERE to go to the Maps page.

PCE contamination was first detected in this area in the 1990s during routine sampling of the Mount Olivet Cemetery irrigation well. As a result of PCE discovery at this location, the PCE plume was referred to as the Mount Olivet Cemetery Plume. Subsequent investigations proceeded, including a 1995 report by the State of Utah. This report was unable to determine where the PCE originated, but pointed out that the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center (VAMC) operated a dry cleaning facility that utilized PCE on site in the late 1970s.

In 2003-2004, when PCE was detected in a Salt Lake City municipal drinking water well at a concentration of 2.23 ppb (parts per billion), Salt Lake City Public Utilities removed the well from service. This measure was taken as a precaution, even though the national drinking water standard for PCE is 5.0 ppb.

Following the municipal well sampling in 2003-2004, the EPA and Salt Lake City officials sought various funding approaches to address the PCE concern in greater detail. Up to this point, Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ) and EPA investigations indicated that although PCE was found in deep groundwater, no PCE was detected in surface water springs in the City. There did not appear to be any means for people in the community to come in contact with PCE from the relatively deep groundwater aquifer.

In 2010 however, PCE was discovered in several surface water springs located down gradient from the plume. The springs in this area are found along the Wasatch Fault. If left uncontrolled, the plume could continue to migrate as a result of the geologic conditions. A Preliminary Assessment/Site Investigation (PA/SI) completed in 2011 by UDEQ further studied and confirmed the presence of PCE in the surface water springs and shallow groundwater aquifer and concluded that the contamination is likely connected to other PCE findings in the area.

As a result of the PA/SI, the plume was renamed the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume. EPA and UDEQ have concluded that back in the late 1970s, a dry cleaning operation located on the grounds of the VAMC discharged PCE into the sewer, and that the PCE leaked into surrounding soil through deficiencies in the sewer, impacting the groundwater. EPA and UDEQ were unable to identify other potentially responsible parties that may have contributed to the contamination.

As previous funding efforts failed locally, and as site conditions and exposure pathways changed, both the City and State supported the proposed listing of the Site on the National Priorities List (NPL). NPL placement ensures that a comprehensive investigation will occur, that any identified health risks will be addressed, and if necessary, that the cleanup will occur. The NPL provides access to technical and financial resources that are otherwise unavailable. Final listing of the Site on the NPL occurred on May, 24, 2013 with VA named as the sole potentially responsible party (PRP).

The first step to address the situation is to conduct a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study. As the sole potentially responsible party, VA began this study in 2013. Click HERE to read more about current progress.