Geneva Steel is far from being pollution-free, but company officials say that people driving by the plant will notice fewer red clouds coming from Geneva's stacks.

During the past four months, the company has studied ways to reduce visible emissions from the plant and has recently put those methods into use, said Boyd Erickson, vice president of engineering and environment.By upgrading particulate removal devices, Geneva has reduced the iron oxide (red cloud) emissions from the open hearth stacks, he said.

"In the past several weeks we have had a very substantial reduction and have been able to eliminate the red cloud most of the time," Erickson said.

The results of Geneva's study, an opacity reduction study, were submitted to the state Health Department Monday as part of an agreement Geneva made with the state after failing opacity readings taken by the state Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency last summer.

Geneva agreed to conduct a four-month study to analyze and determine what could be done to assure that the company was in compliance with opacity standards at the open hearth and sintering plants.

In November - when the Utah Department of Health charged Geneva Steel with possible air quality violations - company officials said they did not understand how the plant could flunk opacity readings and pass health standards at the same time.

Instead of fighting the charges, Geneva cooperated with the state and paid a $41,000 consent agreement that resolved six cases where air quality officials have observed what they claim are opacity violations, said Burnell Cordner, director of the Bureau of Air Quality.

The opacity reading is a visual standard - more of a cosmetic standard - used to determine what a plant is emitting, while a mass emissions test is a health standard and is measured through filters.

An opacity reading is taken by a certified observer who, with the naked eye, looks directly into the smoke plume rising from the stack. If the observer's view of the area behind the emission is obscured 20 percent or more, the emission does not comply with state enforced opacity levels.

"The reason why this is such a bedeviling problem is that we know how the machines measure it (for mass emissions)," said Joe Cannon, Geneva Steel president. "All certified opacity readers can vary 7 percent either way."

George Wilson, area manager for maintenance and gas cleaning for the open hearth, said Geneva Steel has improved its opacity emissions by improving an open hearth electrostatic precipitator and installing additional spray nozzles in the stack scrubbers.

Geneva has passed recent opacity readings as well, which concludes that recent steps have decreased the plant's opacity emissions, Erickson said.

The company has also installed video camera equipment allowing operators to load all open hearth scrubber units equally and minimize the opacities from some of those units.

Particulate sensors have been installed, enabling Geneva operators to balance the level of emissions going to the open hearth scrubber stacks and ensure compliance with opacity standards even during nighttime hours.

Geneva has also improved maintenance and operating practices at the sintering plant including a reduction in alkali raw materials, the study says.

Cannon said they have spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project and by the time we finish with this, we will be in the millions.

"This shows a concrete set of things that Geneva has done to have a positive affect on the valley. We are doing our share for air quality issues and environmental issues in the valley."

Cannon said the study also demonstrates the plant's commitment to do more than they are asked to do. "Instead of talking about the study, we did something that has truly had a positive effect on the regulations."