From January 1973 until June 1986, Canyonlands 21st Century Corp. operated a plant in Blanding in which arsenic, gallium, silver, and gold were extracted from waste material sent by other companies.
The gold and silver came from mine ores. Eventually, the company started extracting arsenic and gallium from semiconductor industry wastes.Environmental Protection Agency and state health officials claim many violations of hazardous waste regulations occurred at the 10-acre plant, which is located inside the city limits beside Utah 163. The company went broke, the property was sold, and at one time the EPA charged that hazardous material was blowing around.
At last the site has been cleaned up, and the bill has reached more than a million dollars.
So far, the corporations stuck with most of the expense are innocent sellers of material used by Canyonlands. Under federal law, they are branded as potentially responsible parties.
Some of these sellers - FMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Montsanto Co., and National Semiconductor Corp. - filed suit this week in U.S. District Court trying to force the property's owners to help pay for the project.
Six years ago, state officials found violations of hazardous waste rules and ordered a cleanup. By that time, Canyonlands had filed for bankruptcy. According to the suit, the company failed to correct the problems.
Aero Industries Inc. of Las Vegas purchased the plant site in May 1986 for $175,000.
When I tried to call Aero in Las Vegas, it was no longer listed. When I called its Long Beach, Calif. number, I only reached an answering service. My call wasn't returned by press time.
On July 6, 1987, the Southeastern Utah District Health Department wrote to Robert Terry, Aero's chairman, saying "Many of the chemicals kept on site have been relocated to more secure location inside the building and (this) lowered much of the citizen concerns," wrote a department official.
"We are still concerned about the pile of treater dust stored on site. EPA test results indicate a very high level of heavy metals in this material. Their reports indicate a high degree of hazard associated with wind-blown material."
The treater dust was dust removed from air pollution control devices, to be reprocessed to extract silver.
"Any problems of material leaching into the groundwater remains at present undocumented but is still a major concern.
"While the material does not meet the definition of hazardous waste, it does constitute a potential public nuisance."
Thomas E. Tracey, executive vice president of Xtron, wrote to Brent Bradford, Parker's replacement, in May 26 1987. He said Xtron was supposed to ship off some of the material in April 1987, was given an extension to May 22, 1987, and "I regret to inform you that we have not been able to meet this date either.
"The reason is financial," he said.
"Aero Industries Inc., the parent company and owner of the property, controls the disbursement of funds to Xtron. Xtron is still in the early phases of start-up and we are far from generating a positive cash flow. Simply, we are not being provided the means to comply with the cleanup plan."
Companies that sent material to Canyonlands were pressured by EPA to pay for a cleanup, as potentially responsible parties. Along with Aero, they signed a cleanup agreement.
According to the suit, "Aero's plans regarding the Xtron site never materialized. Aero abandoned the site and provided no site security, completely failing to comply with remediation requests and orders."
On May 27, 1987, EPA ordered a cleanup.
It started Aug. 15 this year. A consultant hired by the parties, U.S. Pollution Control Inc., removed suspected cyanide liquid, removed treater dust from the site, removed soil, decontaminated laboratory gas cylinders, returned cylinders to their vendors, hauled off abandoned processing equipment, and did other cleanup work.
"Aero refused to undertake or commence any of the work it agreed to perform," the suit claims.