Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, has promised Utah officials he will determine whether Amtrak is violating any federal laws by dumping human waste for its passenger trains.

"State Health Department officials say the practice of flushing raw human waste from passenger trains is common along (Amtrak) rights of way throughout the state," Nielson said.Amtrak personnel, according to the state Health Department, have said the practice is authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency and they will not cease the dumping unless ordered by Congress.

"I realize Amtrak is currently exempt from certain federal requirements," the Utah Republican said. "However, the exemptions weren't created so Amtrak could hide behind them and thumb its collective nose at legitimate health concerns."

Nielson sits on both the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over public health matters, and the Government Activities and Transportation Committee, which governs Amtrak.

"I will use my committee positions to further investigate the allegations," he said. "I intend to question the EPA and Amtrak about this problem."

Railroad workers, he said, face a serious health risk in cleaning up the tracks. And Utah citizens "certainly deserve more than an arrogant brushoff. Salt Lake City and Price officials also have asked the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the allegations, because that agency regulates sanitation on interstate carriers.