A $5 million water treatment plant will be built at Geneva Steel to improve both air and water quality, officials of Basic Manufacturing and Technology of Utah, the parent company, have announced.

The announcement was made Thursday at a meeting of the Utah Air Conservation Committee, which agreed to call off for now its planned June 16 hearing on an air quality violation notice against the steelmaker. Shortly afterward, Joseph A. Cannon, Geneva Steel's president, made a similar announcement in a news conference in the State Capitol.Gov. Norm Bangerter and Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, immediately praised the plan.

"This is an indication that Geneva wants to take the necessary steps to remain a good neighbor in the community," Nielson said. "Obviously this doesn't solve Utah County's air quality problem, but it is a big step in the right direction."

In a prepared statement, Cannon said the proposed facility will be completed within two years, and it will cost $5 million to build and $1 million per year to operate.

Cannon acknowledged that more must be done to clean up Geneva's air pollution, especially extremely fine particulates below 10 microns in diameter, called PM10 dust.

The company is the first plant in Utah to propose reducing its emissions of these fine particulates. It took the action before requested to by state officials, he said.

Boyd Erickson, Geneva's acting director of engineering and environmental affairs, outlined the proposal for the Air Conservation Committee.

Much of Geneva's air pollution comes from the blast furnace when slag is cooled by dousing it with water. Until now, the company has used dirty water from the coke plant, called "flushing liquor," to do this.

Before it quenches the coke, this water is used to cool gases from the coke plant and collects industrial pollution in the process - up to 13,000 milligrams of chemicals and salts per liter.

When the water is sprayed on the hot coke, it flashes into steam. Because the coke has been simmering at 2,000 degrees, and the water is dirty, particles from the water are carried into the air. This contributes to Geneva's air quality problems.

This technique is used because it gets rid of most of the water from the coke plant without having to discharge it. Geneva's wastewater discharge permit regulates how much pollution can be in the water leaving the plant.

Under the new proposal, Geneva will build a waste-water treatment plant that would treat this dirty water without the need to evaporate it in the coke-cooling process. It is to be made clean enough to meet the permit's requirements.

The coke would be quenched with clean water (550 milligrams per liter) from other sources, including the Provo River, surface drainage and ground water. Geneva Steel has enough water rights to provide this, Erickson said.

That should reduce pollution significantly, including fine particles.

Erickson told committee members that until the plant can be completed, which might even be sooner than two years, Geneva will modify its operations to reduce air pollution.

During the meeting, private citizens objected to Geneva's continued air pollution. Linda R. Clark, Orem, president of the Utah County League of Women Voters, accused the committee of allowing air pollution worse than allowed by federal standards.

"Just say no - no waivers, no extensions, no proposals for non-attain-ment areas in Utah," she said. She told the committee members that otherwise they should resign.

Committee members disputed her charges.