Wirth Watching – Remembering the iconic Murray Stacks

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MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – 16 years ago, hundreds gathered in Murray one August morning to watch a show. It was a blast. The event was the blowing up of the, iconic, ‘Murray Stacks’.

Today it is 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’.

Ever since the 1860’s, Murray was a smelting town. It was the American smelting company plant that pretty much owned the town economy, from 125 years ago through World War 2.

And 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 just was 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 the people saw them as, well… Murray.

You couldn’t go anywhere in Murray with seeing them. Then, development came to the area and the stacks weren’t going to last.

Now the idea of tearing down 8 million pounds of brick that’s neatly stacked up in a tapered stack isn’t easy. Especially with another stack right next to it.

But they had a plan. 16 years ago this week, the explosive people figured out what they needed. The north stack needed 135 pounds of explosives. And 165 pounds of explosives was needed for the south stack.

That’s a lot of explosives. And that was a big stack. It was 34 feet across the base. They also cut out lots of support bricks. Sort of what you do when you cut 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 not to worry. The mayor of Murray said don’t come and watch it, stay home.

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 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 

The last time smoke came out of the old stacks was 1949. They sat idle for 50-years before they fell with the help of all of that dynamite.

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