The environmental nightmare of Michael Dukakis' campaign may be put to sleep near this small central Utah town - making dreams come true for one Utah company.
The East Carbon Development Corp. is eager to negotiate with Massachusetts officials who, opposed to locating a landfill in Walpole, not far from Boston, are eyeing a plan to ship sludge from Boston Harbor to the corporation's landfill at East Carbon City.Becoming a dumping ground for Eastern waste could be an economic boon for the Utah company - which needs waste from somewhere such as Boston Harbor just to open. Ironically, the Boston Harbor sludge polluted Dukakis' 1988 presidential campaign. His claims that he'd cleaned up the harbor were disputed by environmentalists and exploited by the George Bush campaign in television ads.
"This (Boston) is one of 50 or 60 contacts we've had from municipalities and other entities interested in our concept and in our project," said Nick Sampinos, one of the corporation's six owners. "To this point, however, we had not been able to sign one of those parties. We feel it will happen in the next six months to a year - but there is no way of knowing."
In June 1990, the privately owned East Carbon Development Corp. was given the governmental green light to construct a 2,400-acre landfill on the outskirts of the small mining community. Once one contract is signed, Sampinos said, the project will proceed, employing a substantial construction force, plus 20 to 40 people to run the operation.
"That would be a substantial boon to the local economy, which is totally dependent upon the coal mining," he said. "The townspeople are looking forward to it as another source of employment - a stable one."
One with no environmental hazards, according to Sampinos.
"We are taking every precaution possible, and for that reason, we think we will be attractive to many municipalities. When they send their waste, they want to know it's going to go into a place where it will be safe and they won't have to come back and take it away some day."
Shipping garbage by rail several thousand miles may become the cheapest route for many municipalities, which soon will be forced to upgrade their landfills to meet new stringent federal requirements.
Sampinos said Subtitle D, a new federal regulation mandating stricter standards for landfills, will force many municipal landfills out of business. "We feel once that happens the attractiveness of our project will increase in the eyes of a lot of people," he said. "Right now we are seeing a lot of landfills on the East Coast drop their prices just to use their space up prior to Subtitle D coming into effect."
When space runs out, Sampinos is convinced they'll look to Utah - specifically to East Carbon's landfill, which has rail and road access.
East Carbon's primary market will be ash from the nation's waste-to-energy plants. But the landfill is also permitted to take several forms of non-hazardous household, municipal solid waste.
The garbage won't be burned there but will be buried - some 66 feet down in one of 30 80-acre cells, complete with layers of protective synthetic liners, fabric and drainage nets that meet new environmental standards.
But strict compliance with the new standards, Sampinos believes, won't stop East Carbon from being cost-competitive.
Boston officials agree.
The Walpole landfill, designated for grit screenings from the Boston Harbor cleanup, is estimated to cost about $24 million over 20 years.
Walpole was also chosen as an emergency backup landfill to take treated sludge, if a plant to convert the sludge to fertilizer fails, or if there is no market for the fertilizer pellets. The Utah landfill would serve as an alternative backup for sludge, which is considered less toxic than municipal solid waste.
East Carbon Development officials estimated the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority would have to pay $10 million to reserve 3 million yards of space in the landfill for 30 years. Sampinos is touting the company's reasonable rates.
He said many Eastern landfills charge a $150 a ton disposal fee; East Carbon's will likely be half that.
Of that amount, East Carbon City will receive 50 cents per ton for every ton brought into the facility. That will increase by 50 cents a ton every 10 years up to 40 years. The company will bury the garbage of East Carbon City and Sunnyside City for free.
Additionally, the company will pay Carbon County 25 cents a ton; the state, 50 cents a ton.
A win-win deal for both Utah and Boston?
Sampinos thinks so. But some Massachusetts officials aren't convinced.
"It strikes me as kind of a silly idea to ship our waste products 2,000 miles when there is a perfectly good site that has received all the approvals 15 miles away," said MWRA Executive Director Paul Levy.