Vowing that the Army is committed to safeguarding health and the environment, Dugway Proving Ground's commander, Col. Jan Van Prooyen, signed an agreement Tuesday saying his post will obey hazardous-waste laws from now on.
In exchange, the state agreed not to fine Dugway for what the state maintained was eight years of violating such laws. Fines could have been imposed for up to $10,000 per day per violation.The agreement ended several years of negotiations about what measures were needed to control hazardous wastes at the desert post, which tests weapon and defense systems for the military.
The state had contended that Dugway violated the law by burning hazardous wastes since 1980 without proper permits; impounding rinse water and liquid residue from tests of chemical weapons without permits; and storingsome hazardous wastes on base for long periods of time without permits.
Dugway spokesman Kathleen B. Whitaker has said the Army tried all along to comply with rules. She said that in 1980, Dugway was given permission to operate as a "small waste generator." But following a state inspection in 1986, the state contended Dugway was a large waste generator and out of compliance.
With Tuesday's agreement, the Army submitted a list of post operations that require permits; the treatment, storage and disposal facilities used; and the types and quantities of waste generated. The state in turn gave Dugway interim permission to operate with hazardous wastes.
Dugway is expected to provide more detailed plans for the handling of waste within a year. It will be subject to state approval.
The agreement was considered important enough by Van Prooyen that he flew by helicopter from Dugway to sign the document at the Cannon Health Building in Salt Lake City. He told state health officials that the Army is expending more resources to protect health and the environment.
Signs of that include Dugway's environmental management program. It has grown from one part-time employee 10 years ago to the current Environmental Management Division with 10 environmental engineers, ecologists and assistants.
That division's $3.2 million budget next year anticipates such projects as replacing underground fuel tanks, asbestos removal and hazardous waste sampling and disposal. The base is also planning to spend $10 million from 1989 to 1994 to "restore the effects remaining from testing before 1980 when environmental protection was not mandated," according to an Army press release.