The U.S. Army plans to sign an agreement Tuesday to end what state officials say have been eight years of violating hazardous-waste laws at Dugway Proving Ground.
In exchange for the Army's willingness to comply with rules and work closely with state health officials, the state will not fine the Army for any past violations - which could have carried penalties of up to $10,000 a day.An Army press release says Tuesday will "be a landmark day for Dugway Proving Ground" when post commander Col. Jan A. Van Prooyen signs the agreement with Brent Bradford, executive secretary of the Utah Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee, in Salt Lake City.
Drafts of the agreement outlined state assertions that the Army ignored rules for hazardous-waste disposal for years. They include:
-Dugway has conducted open burning and detonation of regulated hazardous wastes since Nov. 19, 1980, "without interim status or a plan approval required for hazardous-waste treatment, storage or disposal facilities."
-The Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee tried to stop that by issuing an order on Sept. 11, 1986, telling Dugway to comply with rules or face fines of up to $10,000 a day. But Dugway continued to operate without permits.
-Two areas impounded rinse water and liquid residue from tests of nerve and mustard agents. Those types of wastes have legally been subject to regulation since November 1986 - but action required by rules had not occurred.
-Dugway has placed some hazardous wastes in canisters that cannot be removed from base because of Army regulations. But it needed and did not obtain a state permit for on-site storage.
Despite such assertions, Dugway spokeswoman Kathleen B. Whittaker has said the Army has tried all along to comply with hazardous-waste rules.
She said that in 1980, the Army, as required by law, supplied the state a list of the hazardous wastes it generates - such as solvents, old batteries and decontaminated weapons residues - and was given permission to operate as a "small waste generator."
However, after an inspection in 1986, she said the state contended Dugway was a large waste generator and was out of compliance. She said the Army and the state have met about once a month since to negotiate a settlement.
On Tuesday, the Army will submit a revised document listing post operations that require permits; the treatment, storage and disposal facilities used; and the types and quantities of waste generated. The state will then grant Dugway "interim" status to handle hazardous wastes.
It will be expected within a year to provide much more detailed plans on how to handle wastes. State approval of that more detailed plan could take two to five years, said Lt. Col. David F. Shockey, Dugway director of engineering, housing and logistics.
The agreement Tuesday also means in part that state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials may conduct inspections at the post once a year. The first such inspection is planned for mid-September.
Of note, Dugway officials say several recent actions by the Army show its commitment to protecting the environment, including:
-Dugway's environmental management program has grown from one person doing the job part time 10 years ago to today's Environmental Management Division with 10 environmental engineers, ecologists and assistants.
-The Environmental Management Division's budget of $3.2 million next year calls for projects including replacing underground fuel tanks; asbestos removal; hazardous-waste sampling and disposal; and monitoring of ground water, wastewater and radon.
-The base is also planning to spend $10 million from 1989 to 1994 on an installation restoration program "to restore the effects remaining from testing before 1980, when environmental protection was not mandated," according to an Army press release.