Residents concerned about air pollution and Geneva Steel's contribution to the problem in Utah Valley should spend less time talking about which side they are on and more about discussing air quality, a state official says.
Jan Miller, vice chairman of the Air Conservation Committee, said, "I've been on the Air Conservation Committee for 10 years and never before have participants objected to one another like tonight."If this is what we have to listen to, I'm really disappointed because it continues to polarize people into two camps."
The committee held a public hearing at Mountain View High School on Thursday night to discuss the proposed agreement between Geneva and the state for settlement of a notice of violation. The notice deals with a particulate emission regulation involving the temperature at which cooling water is applied to hot slag.
The 18-page agreement details how Geneva plans to reduce air pollution in exchange for lighter state penalties for past violations.
This includes building a $5 million water-treatment plant, which will clean dirty water before it is sprayed on slag to cool it.
In the past, polluted water from the coke plant was sprayed on the 2,000-degree slag from blast furnaces. When it flashed into steam, the steam was polluted with particles from the water.
The company expects to complete construction of a water treatment plant and have it operating within 18 months after construction permits are issued by the Utah Water Pollution Control Committee and it is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. That could take up to six months.
In the proposal, Geneva agrees to build an additional cooling pit for the slag allowing it to air cool for about 24 hours. Small amounts of clean water will be used on the pit until it cools below 500 degrees.
"We feel this is a viable solution to the settlement of the notice of violation, provides progress to further air emission reductions including PM10 (fine particulates less than 10 microns in diameter), improves water quality control, and we recommend your approval for this agreement," said Boyd Erickson, director of engineering at Geneva.
But Linda Clark, Utah County president of the League of Women Voters, said the league is asking for a thorough testing of Geneva's proposed procedures to establish that "they don't compromise the air our community breathes before they are approved."
"If these untested procedures are approved, and Geneva is allowed to be the tester, then who is looking out for the citizens in Utah County who must breathe this air?"
Kimberly Warner, co-founder of Utah Valley Citizens for Clean Air, said, "I'm pleased they (Geneva) are doing their part to clean up the air, but there is a lack of thorough studies to determine what we are agreeing to."
Gwen Miller, chairwoman of Geneva Wives, said Warner's group is using "scare tactics to alarm the community. I'm tired of hearing that we are not a good neighbor."
Linda Chipman, president of the Coalition to Save Geneva and American Jobs, said it is time for others to clean the air instead of just pointing the finger at Geneva.
The public will be able to make additional comments for a 90-day period before a final decision is made by the committee.