OGDEN, Utah — The first phase of demolishing the Swift building in West Ogden began Tuesday as a shed attached to the building came down piece by piece.
Part of the area will be used to help the city re-open a kayak park that used to be here, Ogden City Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said.
“Today is just another day of progress towards this whole area," Johnson said.
The rest of the building will be demolished within the next year. They are waiting for the Ogden City Council to appropriate the funds for the demolition, which should cost around $1.5 million, according to Johnson.
It has been a long road to get to this point.
“This was a significant target hazard for us, without knowing the actual contents that we have learned much about over the last 6-9 months," Ogden City Fire Chief Mike Mathieu said.
The building was filled with more than 97,000 containers of hazardous materials, Matthieu said.
The city purchased the building for about $500,000 and then called in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help clean the area up.
“The EPA, they were like kids in a candy store," Johnson said. "There were so many kinds of chemicals, and I think it was a dream come true in their careers to actually be able to dispose of it."
The cleanup process took less than a year. Johnson credits that to the city owning the building.
About 90 percent of the hazardous materials have been determined as surplus from the Department of Defense dating back to the 1980s or 90s, Mathieu said.
“I am just so glad this stuff is gone out of this building," he said.
It is still unknown who will pay for the cleanup of the building.
“They [EPA] have 3-5 years to go back and decide who is going to pay for what, how they are going to pay for things," Johnson said.
Despite the cost, both Mathieu and Johnson agree it is about what's best for the community.
“We had an unsafe situation in our community that we now have mitigated, and it's not unsafe anymore," Mathieu said.
The building was a danger for local first responders, as well as transient people who used the building as a place to sleep in the winter.
If the building wasn't cleaned up, something bad could've happened, Mathieu said.
"If they need to be in a certain level of hazardous protection suits where they are totally encapsulated, we wouldn’t know that going into a fire like that," he said. "We could’ve been exposed to all kinds of unhealthy situations."
This is also a step in re-vamping the area of West Ogden.
“We are trying to build back this area. We think this area has a huge, rich history and we would like to see it come back," Johnson said. "We think it will affect all of West Ogden. West Ogden has kind of been a neglected area for a long, long time."