Hazardous sludge has shown up in a sewage treatment at this Army base. But it's not any exotic agent used in biological warfare - it's material much closer to home.
The material is "very, very low levels of items you'd find in household hazardous waste," said Capt. John McArthur, environmental officer at Dugway. Among the discovered types in the sludge are drain cleaner, oven cleaner and motor oil.Toxic waste was undoubtedly dumped into the sewer system by residents for many years, probably dating back to the construction of the English Village housing area in the 1950s.
But because of this discovery, $600,000 in construction funding for an improved sewage lagoon is in jeopardy.
In a meeting of the base's environmental committee - attended by base commander Col. Frank Cox and state environmental officials - environmental officers detailed the problem. They said the sludge was discovered when one portion of a sewage lagoon serving the English Village housing community was drained as part of the lagoon's upgrading.
Three other wastewater lagoons - at the Baker life sciences center, Ditto-Avery chemical test facility, and Carr weapons center - are being upgraded as a result of a 1986 notice of non-compliance sent to Dugway by state officials. Altogether, $6.2 million was dedicated to improve the lagoon facilities.
"The only one that we're concerned with right now is English Village lagoon," McArthur told the Deseret News.
The other lagoons were improved without a problem. However at English Village, a new three-cell lagoon was to be built to replace the two-cell sewage lagoon. To do that, part of the old lagoon was dried out - and that's when the household hazardous material showed up.
While similar material may be at the bottom of nearly every sewage lagoon in the country, any technically hazardous waste discovered on a military base creates problems since bases are legally held to higher standards than most public facilities.
The base is forced to go through a formal study to determine the nature and extent of the hazardous material. Then it must decide how to handle it.
And Dugway must decide soon.
The base allocated $1.2 million for the whole program at the English Village lagoon. Since the program started last fall, officers have spent $600,000 on such items as new pump houses.
The money was allocated in 1987. Under the military's deadlines, if the rest of the funds aren't committed to contracts by May 1, the funding will be revoked.
Because the hazardous sludge showed up, construction was halted while the base decides what to do about it.
Dugway either can close the site under federal hazardous waste laws and build a new sewage treatment facility elsewhere for English Village, or it could clean up the material and rebuild at the same location.
Meanwhile, under pressure by state environmental officials, Dugway is attempting to decide what to do about hazardous material from military experiments, which may have contaminated parts of the base decades ago.
Also, a new environmental assessment about base operations is being written to replace an assessment issued in 1982. I. Gary Resnik, chairman of the technical advisory commission for the assessment project, said a final draft is due Oct. 31.