About 40 members of the Utah Manufacturers Association met with state Environmental Health Division officials Monday to iron out problems on a state request for information.
By the end of the meeting, state officials said industry representatives had read more than necessary into their request for information on toxic material used in manufacturing. They agreed that if industry did its best to generally give information, they wouldn't seek sanctions.Industry representatives agreed they would try to supply what they could. Meanwhile, one question - whether the state has a right to demand the information - was left open.
David R. Bird, a lawyer representing some of the group's members, started the meeting by saying that about a year ago the state made a request for such information. But then, after a meeting with officials, the state concluded it probably didn't have authority to require it "and the issue was dropped."
Recently, however, state officials issued about 1,700 orders to companies "demanding that this information be supplied." Some companies believe that the detailed information sought would take "two to four man-years" to compile, he said.
According to Bird, one company estimated immediate compliance would cost $100,000.
Bird said he was "not sure why you need the information, and exactly what information you need, and whether or not you really realize what you've asked us to do."
Division director Ken Alkema said that over the past several years, the state has been working to better understand toxic emissions in Utah. It has been strongly encouraged to do this by the Environmental Protection Agency, and the EPA provided money for the project.
Burnell Cordner, director of the Utah Bureau of Air Quality, said that two years ago the state and EPA agreed that Utah needs a toxics inventory. The EPA provided a contractor who developed a form for industries to fill out, and the contractor is also studying the data supplied. The contractor's fee is more than $30,000.
Requests for information were mailed a little more than a year ago, he said. Unfortunately, this coincided with a request for information for a separate national program, concerning the public's right to know about emissions.
In fact, he said, the two requests were mailed in the same envelop. This caused some confusion, especially since the state didn't distinguish as well as it should have between the programs.
"We have spent a lot of time over the years developing regulations and dealing with what we call the criteria pollutants," ones that could cause public health problems if standards are exceeded, Cordner noted.
But almost none of the states have had time to deal so far with toxic substances. In fact, he said, Utah doesn't even know if there is a problem in the state.
So officials are trying to put together a toxics inventory. About 1,100 potential sources responded to the request for information for this program, and 1,700 didn't.
Cordner said the mailing list may have been overly broad, as there were department stores on it. He added the forms may be unnecessarily burdensome and he wants to know how they can be made less onerous.
The information request wasn't intended to cost a company $70,000 or man-years of work, he said.
Cordner said he thought it wouldn't be terribly difficult to fill out the forms, because companies would have provided about 90 percent of the information requested for the public right-to-knowprogram. Therefore, they should be able to get much of the information from their files.
The facts requested beyond that already provided involve such things as volatile organic material, smokestack height and temperatures in the manufacturing process.
State officials are being pressured to provide the information, both by interested citizens and the EPA, he said. Cordner said he did not want to debate about his authority to order companies to provide information, but said he believes state law supports his authority in the matter.