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Toxic challenges in Tooele County

Budget shortfall means a change in spill, accident response

Published: Sunday, Sept. 23 2012 5:57 p.m. MDT

Harry Shinton, a sergeant with the Tooele County Sheriff's Office, served as chairman of the Local Emergency Planning Committee for his county. He said he is voluntarily retiring this week in tandem with the commission's elimination of his division and concedes the budget move surprised him.

"We (the sheriff's office) don't have the response capability like we used to because we don't have the funding," he said. "The sheriff's office no longer has a response. There will still be a response, but it will no longer be directed or spearheaded by the sheriff's office."

Because it was once home to the nation's largest chemical weapons stockpile — eliminated in January  — Tooele County received $75 million in federal funding over the years to craft a state-of-art emergency response program Riley said rivals many in the country.

With the stockpile gone, though, so is the money and the post 9-11 dollars thrown to counter terrorism on U.S. soil have also largely dried up.

Riley said that presents a challenging situation, particularly for an area like Tooele County, which still has very real threats it needs to be able to handle because of its industrial landscape.

The county's tradition of emergency response, Shinton said, will help it navigate that challenge, but only if agencies and others pull together.

"The threat is still there," he said. "But the money is not there to address the threat. The companies are going to have to stand up more and the fire departments are standing up as we speak....The sheriff's office will still be a resource, but it is not its primary function. If something goes wrong, like any other agency, you get help where you get help."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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