Kennecott Smokestack

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Coordinates: 40°43′18″N 112°11′52″W / 40.721667°N 112.197778°W / 40.721667; -112.197778

The Kennecott Smokestack, to the right, as seen from Saltair Beach on the Great Salt Lake, with the Oquirrh Mountains in the background

The Kennecott Smokestack is a 1,215 ft. high (370.4 meter) smokestack west of Magna, Utah, along SR-201 near the Great Salt Lake. It was built in order to spread the exhaust gases far away from the area of the Kennecott copper smelter. According to data from the Utah Division of Air Quality, Kennecott, owned by parent company Rio Tinto Corporation, is by far the largest single source of air pollution along the Wasatch Front, emitting 10 times more pollution overall than the next largest industrial source, the Chevron refinery. Kennecott self-reports 6,235 pounds of lead emissions a year from its smelter smokestack alone. A potpourri of toxic and deadly heavy metals — lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury — from Kennecott's operations constantly descend upon Salt Lake County.[1]

In 1974, (the year the Kennecott Smokestack was completed), environmental rules were such that waste gases could be released in large quantities as long as they were diluted. At that time, up to 48,000 pounds per hour of sulfur dioxide were released from this one stack. It remains as a monument of that time and is still used to exhaust remaining gases after what the company claims is a recovery/scrubbing operation. In 1995, a much cleaner smelter of new design was built in cooperation with the Finnish company: Outokumpu. Kennecott claims only a few pounds per hour are now released from that stack. The company says it produces and sells approximately one million tons per year of sulfuric acid made from the formerly released gas.[2] The acid recovery plant was built by a division of Monsanto Company. This plant is also designed to recover waste heat from the process to produce electrical power.

The stack is 120 feet (37 m) in diameter at the bottom and rises directly from the ground. A large glass fiber reinforced plastic duct passes up the stack and carries gases to the top. The top can be accessed by a Swedish-built elevator that crawls up a gear track on the inside surface. It takes 10 minutes to ascend the stack. Although the stack is not open to the public, those few who have been at the top are afforded a view of the Great Salt Lake and Oquirrh Mountain Range.

The Kennecott Smokestack is the tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River, the fourth tallest smokestack in the world and the forty-third tallest free-standing structure on earth.

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