Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate
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Midvale Smelter, Utah

The Sharon Steel Corporation is a company that was formerly located in Midvale, Utah, south of Salt Lake City. The company occupied a site which covered about 530 acres, and was used for milling and smelting. The site was shut down in the 1980s along with a company known as Midvale Slag, when it was found to be polluting both the water and the ground soil of the area.

The discovery that the Sharon Steel Corporation was polluting the environment came in 1982 when the Utah Department of Environmental Quality tested some Midvale children’s sandboxes which contained tailings from the plant. Upon testing, they discovered high levels of lead in the sand. Later, the US Geological Survey tested the town’s water supply and found high levels of arsenic as well as iron, manganese and zinc.

In 1990, the site was added to the EPA superfund list and the long process of cleaning it up began. Over the next 8 years, the EPA fenced in the site and sprayed the tailings to prevent dust from them blowing away. They also removed some buildings from the site and reclaimed and replaced affected soil.

Today, the site has been removed from the EPA’s list and it is monitored so that its wells, which are still contaminated, do not affect the ground supply. The EPA also meets with residents quarterly to inform them of any new developments and it is currently meeting with different companies in hopes to redevelop the site.

Selected Bibliography

“Sharon Steele Corporation.” US Environmental Protection Agency, 19 September, 2005. Weblink.

“Superfund Site Report: Sharon Steel Corporation.” Scorecard.com, 2004. Weblink.

Midvale Smelter, Utah Pictures in the Gallery