An EPA air quality control official differed Thursday with those who believe Geneva Steel is breaking pollution standards in Utah County.
The steel plant is complying with all standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, said Marius Gedgaudas, chief of the compliance section of the EPA's air programs branch. He said Geneva does periodically break standards, but in general, the plant operates within the air quality bounds that have been set.The plant is equipped with all of the pollution control equipment it is required to have, he said, and that hardware will be the key to continued compliance.
"There will be problems with the equipment," Gedgaudas said. "Geneva has to spend a considerable amount of money on the equipment to remain in compliance."
Gedgaudas and other air quality experts spoke during an air quality symposium at Brigham Young University. The symposium, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, addressed several Utah County pollution problems.
Gedgaudas said the EPA has monitored Geneva carefully, though there are no continuous monitoring devices attached to the facility.
According to a state study, Geneva is Utah County's major contributor to PM-10 pollution, which is fine particulates like dust, soot and smoke. The pollutants are emitted by factories, wood burning stoves, mills, cars and other types of incomplete combustion.
High concentrations of PM-10 inhibit respiratory functions and aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, damage lung tissue and in extreme cases can cause premature death.
Lee Hanley, the EPA's state implementation plan team leader, said a plan to regulate PM-10 pollution is in the works.
"Once we approve the (plan), it becomes federally enforceable, and the government will see it is complied with it. Utah County is not meeting the standards for PM-10 now," Hanley said. "Control measures are very difficult, because it would mean possible changes in lifestyle, and Utah County does have to address those issues."
Regulating significant PM-10 contributors like Geneva may not be enough to eliminate the problem, she said. Residents may have to alter habits such as using wood-burning stoves.