One way this facility hopes to meet a requirement to cut in half the volume and toxicity of its hazardous waste by 1992 is to get some of that waste reclassified as non-hazardous, a Dugway official says.
Lt. Col. Justin M. Reese III, program manager for Dugway's Environmental Program Office, outlined that strategy Friday as he briefed the governor's State Advisory Council for Science and Technology on the base's environmental protection efforts.The group was touring Dugway's biodefense research facilities in preparation for recommending to the governor what kinds of specialists should serve on a new state committee that will monitor base activities.
Reese said the federal Environmental Protection Agency does not list as a hazardous waste - but Utah does - the liquid residues from the decontamination of equipment surfaces that have been in contact with dangerous chemical agents.
Dugway argued unsuccessfully against Utah's initial classification of the residues but hasn't given up hope of convincing the state they are safe, Reese said.
He said the residues pose no danger because the hazardous chemicals are neutralized in the decontamination process.
An aide to a member of the state council said she was discouraged to hear that the approach to complying with hazardous waste requirements is to try to get rules relaxed.
But Reese said Dugway is committed to environmental protection and cleanup, as evidenced by its allocation of $9 million to his office in the coming year's budget. Much of that will go for improvements in hazardous waste management and wastewater treatment - both of which the state has found to be out of compliance with laws and regulations.
The state advisory council also heard from the base commander, Col. Jan A. Van Prooyen, who said he's anxious for the state committee to be formed because credibility is very important to Dugway.
"We think that we deserve the trust of the people of Utah and their confidence."
He said he supports the Army's decision this week to build a new Biosafety Level 3 biological aerosol test facility instead of the proposed more secure level four facility. The decision was made in the the secretary of the Army's office without much consultation with the base commander, he said.
Some news media reported the Army's change of heart in terms of the Army "backing down" in the face of a public outcry. "I just don't view it that way," Van Prooyen said. "I see it as a sound decision."
In a level three facility, researchers can work with aerosol forms of deadly organisms for which vaccines are available. A level four facility would have allowed work with genetically engineered organisms that have no known vaccine.
The Army had said it had no immediate plans to do level four research, although it might in the future - it just wanted an extra measure of safety. But several Utah officials and citizens had opposed the level four capability, saying that if it was built it would be used sooner or later.
The commander said he's pleased at the prospect of getting the new level three facility, because, since 1985, building deterioration has forced the limitation of biological testing to level two activities. Repairs to the existing facility should be completed this fall that will permit renewed level three testing until the new lab can begin operating in 1992.
Advisory council members said they found Friday's briefings and tour very helpful, giving them an idea of how the biodefense work operates and what kinds of people should serve on a monitoring committee.
State Science Adviser Randy Moon said he was pleased with the candor of Dugway officials and the completeness of the information they provided.
Relations between the state and Dugway are at a transition point, he said, and it's not the job of current Dugway officials to have to explain away any difficulties of the past.
"Everybody that wants to keep bringing up the sheep, they can. It's something that happened. It's over. It's done," he said, referring to the 1968 death of several thousand sheep by nerve gas from Dugway.
"It's a non-productive discussion," said Cy McKell, council member and dean of science at Weber State College.