For an hour Thursday, a line of Utahns - some of them angry - ripped into a proposal to let U.S. Pollution Control Inc. build a hazardous-waste incinerator in Clive, Tooele County.
The hearing in the Cannon Health Building was called to discuss draft permits that both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Utah Bureau of Solid and Hazardous Waste say they intend to issue to the plant. About 70 people attended the hearing.All who spoke were sharply critical of the project. A large proportion said that if private groups like Greenpeace had not alerted them, they would have been unaware of the hearing.
One company official told the Deseret News after the hearing that 35 of those present work for USPCI; however, they did not testify at this hearing. Another hearing was scheduled to be held in Tooele.
The incinerator, owned by Union Pacific, would burn 130,000 tons of hazardous waste per year. The facility is intended to be a moneymaker, with 80 percent of the waste shipped in from other states.
Dean Zeller, manager of the Bureau of Land Management's Salt Lake District, charged that studies of the plant's potential hazards are based on estimates and modeling. He called for the state and federal government to establish monitoring stations checking for dangerous pollutants that may flow from the stacks. Air and water quality should be carefully checked, he said.
"We are concerned about these lands," the resources there, and the people who use them, Zeller said.
The project was attacked by the environmental activist group Greenpeace; the local chapter of the Audubon Society; the League of Women Voters; Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah; a representative of the city of Wendover; and several private citizens:
- Dennis Saylor, a Salt Lake resident, said of information provided by state and federal officials at the meeting, "I don't find very much that I consider useful, as a general citizen . . . Seems like there's a lot of `ifs' in here."
Saylor added, "I don't know why anybody wants to have this here, except maybe USPCI, to make a few bucks."
- Connie Bullis of the Utah Audubon Society said, "As far as we can see, the adverse effects aren't even considered" in studies. The permit assumes the incinerator will work as planned, she said.
"There must be a contingency plan . . . This is asking for a disaster."
- Greenpeace's Bradley Angel, based in San Francisco, said both the EPA and the state bureau seem to be "trying to railroad this down the throats of the people of Utah." He added that railroad was an appropriate word to use, since USPCI is owned by Union Pacific.
The duty of the state and federal officers is to prevent pollution, he said. But if they approve the facility, the volume of hazardous-waste traffic through Utah will increase.
- Ellen Eckles, Salt Lake City, said 85 percent of hazardous waste can be recycled and the remaining 15 percent can be destroyed by solar energy, so "the technology which this company is proposing is already out of date."
- Gregory Probst, a Salt Lake lawyer who spoke on behalf of the city of Wendover, said the city is on record as opposing the incinerator unless its environmental concerns are addressed. Among these are concerns about air quality, transportation of dangerous waste, groundwater quality, other uses of the federal land, deposits of material on the ground, and the health and safety of plant employees and others.
"We need monitoring to address the actual environmental impacts, not simply to attempt to address how well this machine is performing," Probst said.
Citing fines of around $4.5 million that were levied against a chemical waste facility near Chicago, he said, "I believe we have very strong signs that self-regulation by this industry is not always adequate."
In 1989, only abut 7,800 tons of hazardous waste produced in Utah could not be placed elsewhere, he said. The Aptus incinerator - which is farther along in the permit process - would handle 70,000 tons per year, he said.
If the USPCI incinerator is also approved, at nearly twice the capacity of the Aptus plant, that will be many times the ability to destroy waste that Utah industry needs, he said.
- Paul Wayman, a former Wendover city councilman who now lives in Salt Lake City, said USPCI did not have to perform a market analysis. "We want to know what that hazardous waste stream will be," he said.
- A statement by Owens said, "Is there really a need for a second hazardous-waste incinerator?" He said transportation is the weakest safety link, and called for incinerators to be built near the companies that produce the waste.
He wrote that he would introduce a bill in Congress giving states more authority to regulate the fees charged for shipping in hazardous waste. He urged Gov. Norm Bangerter "to remove the obvious economic incentive to ship waste to Utah because of the low fees."
- June Wickham of the League of Women Voters said a hearing should have been scheduled in Salt Lake City at a time when people are off work, so they can testify. "It does concern Salt Lake," she said.