Utah Power & Light Co. is seeking a zoning change that will allow construction of an incinerator to clean up old electrical transformers before they are sold for scrap metal.

The company has already obtained the necessary air quality permits and now needs a zoning change involving property at 4800 W. 500 South. A plan submitted to the Salt Lake City Planning Commission indicates the plant could handle up to 75,000 transformers yearly.The transformers involved are the gray cylinders located on neighborhood power poles. They are used to convert power from the high intensity lines to a voltage suitable for household use.

UP&L spokesman John Serfustini said this is the first such incinerator for the Utah area, and it is likely UP&L will allow other utilities to make use of the incinerator on a contract basis. Between 5,000 and 6,000 UP&L-owned transformers wear out annually and would be processed through the plant. Serfustini said it is likely transformers from its sister company, Pacific Power & Light Co., could also eventually be processed through the plant.

"Our intent at first will be to handle local needs," Serfustini said. "The service territory could be expanded, and will likely be expanded, if the process proves economical."

The two-step burning process is intended to remove organic insulation and oil residue inside the worn-out transformers and thus increase their scrap metal value. While the mineral oil used to coat the interior of the transformers no longer contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), it is still considered a hazardous waste subject to special handling and monitoring.

PCBs were commonly found in transformers several years ago, but federal regulations that went into effect several years ago have gradually removed them from use.

"I don't think we have any (transformers with PCBs) left in our system," Serfustini said. Any transformer found to contain PCBs will not be processed through the incinerator, Serfustini added. Instead, it will be drained in accordance with federal standards and shipped to a special disposal site in Kentucky as has been the process for contaminated transformers in the past.

Air quality officials expect the incinerator to have no impact on visual pollution and said stack gas discharges will be minimal if the incinerator is operated properly.

The zoning change will require a series of public hearings following notification of area residents and advertising in local newspapers.