The Salt Lake County Council agreed Tuesday to form a committee that will hire someone to determine if there are any lingering safety issues or potential risks at the southeast corner of Kennecott Utah Copper's south tailings pond in Magna.
"My goal is to make sure the citizens of Magna are safe," Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said after the council's unanimous vote. "We don't have all the facts right now."
Corroon said if it costs the county to help investigate, he's ready to spend the money.
Kennecott, however, is paying for the study. To make sure the study remains unbiased, the company won't be directly involved with the committee or deciding who to hire for the study.
"It's up to the committee on who they hire," Kennecott spokesman Kyle Bennett said. "We are going to pay for it. I'm not aware of any cost limitations on this study."
Bennett applauded the County Council, led by council member Michael Jensen, for moving so rapidly on forming the committee. The group is to include representatives from various levels of local and county government, along with community members, Jensen and possibly Councilman Randy Horiuchi.
The council's action came a week after Magna residents learned about a 1997 Kennecott document that suggested the company and state conspired to keep under wraps a 1988 engineering study that said the southeast corner of the tailings pond was seismically unsafe.
State dam safety director David Marble said this past week that the corner of Kennecott's south impoundment is safe. He's basing his opinion in part on a 2006 study by URS Corp., which Kennecott hired to inspect the old south tailings pond. But Marble welcomes the new study.
"I think it's a good idea for them to do a review," Marble said. His hope is that the study will reassure the public.
Longtime Magna resident Lex Watterson, a real estate developer, wants to make sure community members are involved with the committee.
"I welcome the county's involvement," Watterson said. "It's the state that should have been looking after the safety issues. I view the county as an interested party that wasn't complicit in the original cover-up."
Watterson said his interest in the committee and study has less to do with the potential for lower property values because of the negative publicity and more to do with the safety of family members he said live close to the tailings pond."People rely on the government and government agencies to look after things like that," Watterson said. "I assume there is a government agency looking after me."
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