More than 65 percent of particulates emitted into Utah County's air are coming from Geneva Steel, a recently released State Health Department study says.
But a Geneva spokesman discounted the study and reported that the company has hired a top authority on particulates to review and evaluate further data."They (the state) have formed some preliminary conclusions," said Jack Bollow. But he said the study needs to be further supported by additional data before conclusions are drawn.
The "fingerprint" study examines filters for certain particulates included in the PM10 standard.
The fingerprinting method allows the examiner to get a close estimate of who is responsible for certain particulates emitted by looking at the filters collected from monitoring stations.
The filters collected at the Lindon station showed no exceedances during 1987 when Geneva was idle. In 1988, however, the Lindon filters showed 15 exceedances of the 24-hour PM10 standard and an annual exceedance of 54 micrograms.
The PM10 standard is violated when more than 150 particles smaller than a micron are counted in a cubic meter of air during one day. A micron is a millionth of a meter. The yearly standard is violated when more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter are emitted per day.
The previous standard, Total Suspended Particulates, measured all particulates instead of just fine particulates. The standard was changed in 1987 to measure the fine particulates because they are more of a health concern, reaching the lungs.
Bollow said John Cooper, an authority on particulates from Beaverton, Ore., has done work for the state and the Environmental Protection Agency and will be working with Geneva to evaluate further data.
"We have retained Dr. Cooper to evaluate our facility and the area to get good fingerprints," Bollow said. "He has indicated that he's in the process of analyzing data regarding the new ambient samples and is hoping to have the study completed by February."
Bollow said Cooper is reviewing the state data and feels that his work will make a significant improvement on the study - in Geneva's favor.
However, Marvin Maxell, manager of planning and monitoring for the Bureau of Air Quality, said the state wouldn't have released the data to the public if it were going to change.
"This data has been reviewed by EPA officials and they have very minor concerns about the values. They have asked us to go back and do some polishing, but don't anticipate the values to change."
Sam Rushforth, a Brigham Young University botany professor specializing in environmental biology, said his own studies looking at Utah County air quality have been saying for years what the state study shows.
"The study found that Geneva is responsible for a bigger proportion than the Department of Health thought and Geneva is willing to talk about," he said. "This is pretty serious stuff.
"For a long period of time we have been saying we have trouble in inversions, but that is not the only trouble we have. Particulate is high through the summer."
Utah County has the fourth or fifth worst air in the country, Rushforth said. "As we come to know this, we have to work to solve the problem."
The Utah Clean Air Coalition is trying to work on the problems, but "essentially we are told we are a nuisance and an over-reactive bunch of people. We are not," he said. "These data finally indicate the severity of the problem. We are hoping these data will help others know that there is truly a serious problem."
The Bureau of Air Quality is developing a state implementation plan to describe how Utah County will be able to meet and maintain the standard, Maxell said. That plan must be submitted to the EPA by June 30.
"We will probably set an emissions limit and then Geneva will tell us how they will meet that limit. Their consultant will reconcile how they will reduce particulates to obtain final emission limits."
***** Utah County air
1988 fine particulate contributors in Utah County:
-66 percent from steel manufacturers (Geneva Steel).
-16 percent from wood buring.
-10.5 percent from road dust.
-6.5 percent from diesel fuel and oil.
-1 percent miscellaneous (autos, salting roads, gas heat).