National Park Service officials, concerned about potential effects on regional parks from a proposed hazardous-waste incinerator, will meet in April to study the project's environmental impact.
Kate Kitchell, resource management specialist for Canyonlands and Arches national parks, said officials are concerned about the effect of chemical emissions on air quality, visibility, watershed, soil and other natural resources at national parks near Moab and Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction.Studies had been scheduled to begin Wednesday with an aerial assessment of Cisco, the site proposed for the incinerator, and the park areas. However, Kitchell said the flights were postponed until April 5 because of bad weather.
Officials want to obtain "a general perspective of the juxtaposition of the site in relation to Arches, to look at the topography and . . . the way air movement relates to Arches, and whether it would be visible by day, and by night lighting," Kitchell said.
She said the incinerator smokestack, 40 to 50 feet high according to company literature, may be visible from the Arches campground.
The park is about 17 miles from Cisco by sight, said Larry Thomas, chief of resource management. The Colorado monument is about 30 miles southeast of Cisco.
Kitchell said park officials are prepared to suggest mitigating measures to protect natural resources once the company proposing the incinerator applies for state and federal air-quality and waste-management permits.
"From my perspective, it's very close to a national park, which serves as a baseline natural area for people to enjoy and understand basic systems," Kitchell said. "It's important to maintain a natural, non-human-manipulated eco-system."
The Cisco project, proposed by CoWest Incineration Corp. of Denver and Catalyst Waste-to-Energy Corp. of New York, is on hold until voters decide in a November referendum election whether to allow hazardous- and toxic-waste incineration in Grand County.
Company officials said they will wait until the county rezones the Cisco land for heavy industrial use before submitting applications for permits from the environmental agencies.
Kitchell listed the park's concerns in letters to Grand County commissioners and state environmental health officials, including worries about effects of dioxins and hydrochloric acid emissions on two endangered fish species in the nearby Colorado River.
The chemical compounds also could disturb the delicate balance in aquatic systems in Arches, she said.
"The river, perennial streams, small potholes in the slickrock these are extremely sensitive systems," Kitchell said.
Any impact on soils and vegetation is remote but also deserving of study, she said, along with visibility of plumes during regular operations and clouds produced during malfunctions.
Kitchell and others have suggested at public meetings that the county include a requirement in new industrial zoning adopted in January that operators do an environmental evaluation before building, and that local governments apply stricter regulations than do state and federal agencies on the monitoring and testing of incinerators.
Kitchell also suggested forming a local task force to evaluate heavy industry proposals. Commissioners ignored all the suggestions.
In Grand Junction, on the other hand, Mesa County commissioners this month appointed an attorney, architect, physicians and three laymen to an Environmental Quality Committee to evaluate industries interested in locating there.
The county also amended its industrial regulations Tuesday so that pollution-producing industries are a conditional use rather than an allowed use, said Commissioner Maxine Albers.