Utah's first commercial hazardous-waste incinerator, being built in the western desert by Aptus, a Westinghouse Electric Corp. subsidiary, is further along in its construction than legally allowable, the state air quality chief charges.

In March 1990, state officials granted Aptus the hazardous-waste permit it needs to begin construction. But it still doesn't have the required air-quality permit.Burnell Cordner, director of the Utah Bureau of Air Quality, issued a notice of violation to Aptus for reportedly starting to install air-control equipment before getting a state permit for the devices. The incinerator will handle nearly all types of harzardous waste.

The issue is important because Aptus is required to use the best available control technology - and exactly what that technology is must be determined by the state, not the company.

"We sent them a letter in April, feeling that they may be constructing things that were against the air-quality regulations, and they came out and talked to us about it," Cordner told the Deseret News. "They said they wouldn't build any of the things that were covered by the air-quality rules."

But recently, state officials became concerned that construction may have proceeded after all. The company had requested that they be allowed to run their incinerator in order to cure bricks, a process that takes 20 to 30 days, he said.

State inspectors checked the site on Feb. 26. "They have built several pieces of the equipment that we believe are probably in violation of the regulation," Cordner said.

Two days after the visit, Cordner issued a notification of violation and an order that Aptus cease building the disputed equipment.

By apparently jumping the gun on the construction, Aptus put itself in some jeopardy. Not only might it face some penalty if the allegations are proved, but after the state goes through its analysis of the best available control technology, Utah officials may decide there are better ways to control emissions than what Aptus had in mind.

In that case, Aptus may be ordered to tear out some of the air-pollution equipment it has already installed and put in different devices.

Director of public affairs for Aptus, Maggie Wilde, pointed out that, so far, "we are not incinerating anything."

Aptus is evaluating the notice of violation. "We're having our legal counsel look at it and try and pin down exactly what it is that the Bureau of Air Quality wants us to do. We are going to continue some meetings with the bureau," she said. Air pollution control equipment was in place but not connected, Wilde added.

Aptus had hoped to start burning waste in preparation for a trial burn in July.

A public hearing might be held on the emissions limitations, and the state will discuss possible penalties with Aptus. That process alone could take a couple of months, even if Aptus doesn't have to replace any equipment.