More toxic materials are dumped on Utah land than in all but three other states. Utah also has a relatively high amount of toxic pollutants in its air. But the state is among the most pure when it comes to toxins in its water.
That's according to figures released this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about how many toxic substances were released to the environment by chemical companies, mining companies and other industries.A new law requires that such companies publicly disclose such amounts each year. Included in the toxic wastes that must be reported are more than 300 chemicals, including an assortment known to cause cancer and other diseases
Utah ranked fourth among the 50 states, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands in how many toxic pollutants are dumped on its land.
It had 165.4 million pounds of such toxic refuse dumped in 1987. Texas, the state with the most toxic waste dumped on land, had 834 million pounds.
Utah ranked 15th in the amount of toxic pollutants released to its air, 77.3 million pounds. However, EPA officials said that is not too bad because the states with the most had hundreds of millions of pounds dumped into their air.
Utah ranked a pleasant 48th when it came to the amount of toxic materials released into its waters - 133,749 pounds.
Utah ranked 35th in the amount of toxic materials injected underground in the state - a mere 3 pounds. All the states that had less than Utah had no such injection at all. California had the most - 1.53 billion pounds.
Utah also ranked 40th in the amount of toxic materials that companies moved off their premises to landfills, public treatment plants, incinerators or other similar facilities - 6.8 million pounds.
Overall, the EPA said 22.5 billion pounds of toxic materials were released in 1987 into the nation's air, water and ground. Utah's share of that was 24.97 million pounds.
EPA officials said they were amazed at such high numbers. Worse, as many as one-fourth of the companies required to report such discharges failed to do so despite the threat of a fine. And only large companies must file reports, not small polluters such as gasoline stations or dry cleaners.
However, EPA Administrator William Reilly said that while the raw figures indicate tighter pollution standards are needed in some cases, they do not prove in themselves that a public health problem exists.
"Release does not equal exposure," he said. "It is likely that only a few facilities are exposing the public to toxic chemicals at a rate that could require immediate action."