Features and Occasionals (2)
Kennecott plays coy with the EPA, Utah’s Department of Air Quality and Salt Lake City officials as it lays a plan to mine the mineral-rich dustpiles of yesteryear.
Driving into Salt Lake City from the west, as you pass Saltair, a 10-story pile of what appears to be sand—what mining engineers call tailings (think of “tail end”)—looms on the horizon. For five miles, the pile rises on your right, looking like an over-full sand box with an occasional pipe and patches of moisture. The pile, currently covering 9,400 acres (940 Salt Lake City blocks) contains around two billion tons of tailings from the world-famous Bingham Canyon mine.
The moist patches result from a sprinkler system, one of Kennecott's futile attempts to keep the dust it generates from obliterating the sky on windy days. From Salt Lake City, the tailings piles appear to be no more than a bump on the western horizon until the wind blows. Then the talcum powder size fines are stirred up into dust clouds borne on the wind. Viewed from above, the tailings look like strange ponds—disturbing, industrial teal-green bodies of water with tendrils of aqua and other greens reaching out toward the dry edges.
Celia and Kevin Bell: Life on a westside homestead.
5:56 a.m. The sun breaks over the mountains and houses to the east of the little home we recently purchased on Salt Lake’s west side. The cheerful summer light ricochets off the 70-year-old white paint on our garage, through the bedroom window, and unto my eyelids, where it turns into cheerfully jabby little needles, forcing me to stumble up and draw the blinds.
6:17 a.m. Our accidental rooster (the chicken that turned out to be not so chick-y after all) starts up his adolescent attempts at crowing. His call sounds like a cross between an ’84 Buick turning over and a wet cat clawing its way out of a rusty accordion.
6:24 a.m.: I contemplate beating him to death with one of the home improvement books stacked beside the bed (a fantasy I embellish with more gruesome details every morning).
8:15 a.m. Resting deeply.
8:16 a.m.: The no-really-seriously-I-mean-it-this-time-you-lazy-lazy-bastard alarm goes off. I finally get up, showing very little salt-of-the-earth, up-at-dawn moxie. I clearly don’t have the hang of this urban farming thing yet.
We have a paltry poultry flock (eight chickens, with one disqualified on account of dudeliness) and a total n00b’s garden. Our tiny plot of scraggly tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers is surrounded by hulking weeds, looking like nothing so much as the chess club prior to an unfortunate lunch-money incident. (We have seriously delinquent weeds—they have tattoos, and I caught them smoking behind our shed last week.)
This stands in sharp contrast to Celia and Kevin Bell’s farm; last month I had the chance to visit the Bells’ urban homestead, a half-acre plot nestled among more traditional suburban sprawl of the westside Glendale neighborhood. Celia was sitting in the shade, grooming the dog, when I arrived; Kevin soon came home from a motorcycle ride to Evanston—a display of leisure almost impossible to believe once the tour began.