Wirth Watching: The Murray Stacks

- MURRAY, Utah (Good 4 Utah) - The city of Murray is now known for cars, a hospital, and lots of shopping, but it used to be a wild place where ore was turned into metal.

The center of it all was 5300 South.

The last icons of that era disappeared fourteen years ago this month.

Now there’s a medical and shopping complex along Murray's 53rd South, but we remember it as the old lead and arsenic smelter, and specifically we remember it as what all knew as the Murray Stacks.

Murray was a smelting town ever since the 1860's.

But it was the American Smelting Company plant that pretty much owned the town economy, from a hundred and 25 years ago to through world war two.

It took a stack of 450 feet to put the arsenic and lead fumes far enough into the air to at least float over the place.

The smaller original stack of 250 feet was just tall enough to let the lead settle enough to kill crops in nearby farms.

After the metals market and Utah mining were pretty much gone, of course except for Kennecott, the stacks stood as an icon for Murray.

You could see them from all over. Even pilots used them as navigation tools.

Harman’s chicken saw them as Utah's tallest billboard, and people saw them as, well, Murray.

You couldn't go anywhere in Murray without seeing them.

Then, development came to the area, and the stacks weren't going to last.

Now the idea of tearing down eight-million pounds of brick that's neatly stacked up in a tapered stack isn't easy, especially with another stack next to it.

But they had a plan.

14 years ago this week, the explosive people figured out what they needed.

The north stack took 135 pounds of explosives and 165 pounds of explosives in the south stack.

That's a lot of explosives, and that was a big stack: 34 feet across at the base.

It was really strange to stand inside it.

They also cut out lots of support bricks, sort of what you do when you cut down a tree.

And then they put in a ditch.

They wanted to control this, especially when there was lead and arsenic caked into it.

The EPA lady said don't worry.

The mayor said don't come and watch it go away.

But some folks didn't stay home that Sunday morning, August 6th, 2000.

About 15 seconds before the demolition, giant sprinklers started to contain the expected dust, and then one after another, in a matter of seconds, down they came…

Now I am no health expert, nor an environmental person, but one did note the cloud that pretty much covered the high school and more, and one thought of the decades of lead and arsenic that went up the stack.

But that isn't what this is about; this is about the moment Murray lost its iconic stacks.

I guarantee you, anyone who was in Murray before 2000 can’t pass that place on 53-hundred South without thinking of those stacks.

There was a lot of sadness in the faces of those who watched that day.

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