If you didn't attend the state Health Department's public hearing Wednesday on solid and hazardous waste (and it's a safe bet that you didn't), you missed an fascinating meeting.
No one was there. At least, not a single member of the public, for whom the meeting was called.But Bill Sinclair, chief of the department's Permit Section, was undaunted. He turned his microphone on promptly at 7 p.m. and dutifully read all the rules people are supposed to follow at a public hearing: no speeches more than 10 minutes long, no speaking without signing up first and, of course, no irrelevant comments.
Sinclair was just following the rules himself when he spent 10 minutes reading instructions. Hey, there was a stenographer in the room taking minutes for the public record. He had no choice.
Well, Sinclair knew there was no one there in the Utah County Commission Chambers besides a reporter and officials from his own department, so as soon as he finished the instructions he called a recess. All those Department of Health people had to sit around for an hour, though, just in case anyone decided to come late. That's the rule.
For all of you who couldn't make it to the meeting, a synopsis follows: Sinclair says a lot of people might find they're interested once the new rules take effect.
If approved, the new regulations would affect non-hazardous-waste incinerators like those that burn PCB refuse and medical waste, as well as energy plants that burn refuse. To get a permit, owners would have to develop operating plans before the facilities are constructed and get approval for them from the Bureau of Solid and Hazardous Waste.
Incinerators already operating would have to go through the same process. Permits would have to be renewed every five years.
Sinclair said one reason the department is proposing rule changes is some incinerator operators, who now get permits that never expire, tell the state they will burn only non-hazardous material but later burn hazardous refuse.
Operators who violate rules could lose their permits under the new rules. Now, no state agency has had that power, Sinclair said.
Solid-waste landfills also would be affected by the proposed changes. Some dumps burn refuse in open air and allow leakage into groundwater, he said. New rules would regulate those types of problems.
In June, after a series of public hearings about the proposed changes, the Utah Solid Waste Committee will vote on whether to adopt them.
Sinclair said no one attended hearings in Logan or Vernal. A meeting is scheduled in Salt Lake City on April 20 at 7 p.m. in the Cannon Health Building, in Moab on May 2, in Richfield on May 3 and in St. George on May 4.