Local health board members defended themselves against charges of bias during presentation of a county-funded study of selected hazardous waste incinerator sites.
The two-hour meeting in Star Hall was punctuated with angry outbursts, jeering and walkouts by a handful of people in an audience of about 100 gathered for a report on a study last June on out-of-state incinerators.The report by Georgia Hamblin, a real estate agent and chairwoman of the Southeastern Utah Health District board, focused on the positive aspects of incineration and effects on nearby communities.
The Grand County Commission approved a $5,000 budget for Hamblin to visit incinerators in Kentucky, South Carolina and Arkansas with Janie Walker, a member of the county Planning Commission.
Commission Chairman Jimmie Walker said he wanted the information before making any more decisions on a controversial incinerator proposed for Cisco.
Hamblin said she concluded that the technology exists for safe toxic- and hazardous-waste incineration, "provided the facility is a well-designed, well-operated, state-of-the-art facility." She said her concerns about the Cisco incinerator were with the operators.
The health board chairman said she plans to investigate developers CoWest Incineration Corp. of Denver and Catalyst Waste-to-Energy Corp. of New York. She said an initial inquiry indicated Catalyst is in the middle of a takeover by another company.
"All I can do is say put up a flag, listen and beware."
Hamblin opened the meeting with a video she taped at incinerator plants and nearby towns, including Roebuck and Rock Hill, S.C.; Coffeeville, Kan.; El Dorado, Ark.; and Clay and Calvert City, Ky. Hamblin said she and Walker were denied access to the incinerator at Calvert City on the grounds the firm needed to protect technology secrets.
Hamblin said they found the plant in Clay closed because of fire-code violations that were blamed for an explosion that killed a man.
"It had nothing to do with the incineration process," Hamblin said.
The video focused equally on incinerators and features in communities three to five miles away, including new residences in Roebuck valued at $60,000 to $70,000; industrial parks in Roebuck and Rock Hill; $35,000 in equipment on an emergency-response vehicle at the Coffeeville plant; a co-op oil refinery about a mile away; and $500,000 estates within 15 miles of the Calvert plant.
Alice Drogin, a member of the Colorado-Utah Alliance for a Safe Environment, observed that the panoramic views of the communities all showed hazy skies with thin, yellowed clouds.
Hamblin said she recognized the study was weak in analyzing technology, and she eventually refused to field those types of questions. She said the issue of incineration has to be put in perspective. She said most households contain numerous toxic substances, including broken smoke detectors that are radioactive, ironing-board covers containing asbestos and common household cleaning products that "are really not a bit different than what's going into an incinerator."
A former university instructor of statistics cried foul when Hamblin compared the risk of harm from incinerators to such things as eating peanut butter and drinking diet soda with artificial sweetener.
Others accused Hamblin of trying to induce guilt by reminding everyone that wastes must be disposed of somewhere. The chairman of the Moab Planning Commission, Kyle Bailey, said Hamblin was "intertwining fact, fiction and hearsay, and then discrediting everyone else for doing it."
He walked out when Hamblin responded, "It's my meeting, Kyle."
Another man walked out after calling Hamblin's report a "snow job."