State officials hope by December to adopt criteria for siting hazardous and toxic waste facilities in Utah, says Brent Bradford, director of the Bureau of Solid and Hazardous Waste.
Bradford outlined the time frame for establishing such criteria during a public meeting in Moab, the first of a series of meetings scheduled over the next few weeks.The siting of hazardous waste facilities "is one of the most controversial issues of the '80s," and Utah is one of 35 states revising their hazardous waste criteria, Bradford said.
The process is a response to a federal requirement that states be able to certify a capacity for handling 20 years of waste, said Phil Burns, environmental health scientist for the bureau.
At the hearing, officials heard formal comment about the criteria from four Colorado residents, 13 speakers from Grand County and a representative of APTUS, a firm seeking to build an incinerator in Tooele County.
Representatives of the Colorado-Utah Alliance for a Safe Environment, the Concerned Citizens Resource Association and the Alliance for Responsible Ideas for a Secure Economy in Grand County focused on the incinerator CoWest Incineration Corp. of Denver wants to build in the tiny southeastern Utah community of Cisco, located about 60 miles from Grand Junction, Colo.
The groups want criteria that would protect wildlife, natural resources, air quality and scenic vistas surrounding the incinerator site.
Bill Haitt said criteria also should consider meteorology, forests, archaeology and impacts on other economies, and individuals should be able to sue companies in violation without having to wait for government action.
Others suggested criteria allowing for investigations of track records of prospective developers and requiring compatibility with air quality and waste management regulations of adjoining states.
Because of inadequate infrastructure, hospitals, fire and other services in rural areas, no incinerators should be allowed in counties with less than 20,000 population, said Andrew Riley, an alliance member from Castle Valley, and Elaine Heath of Fruita, Colo., founder of the Colorado alliance.
Marguerite Sweeney, mayor of Castle Valley, reminded the panel that her city's town council passed a resolution this winter opposing "establishment of any kind of incinerator facility at Cisco."
Bradford said he knows of the concern about the Cisco facility and that his office has received several hundred letters about it. But he said there has been no official correspondence yet from the companies proposing construction.
Maggie Wilde of APTUS said siting criteria the state would propose are "duplicative and unnecessary."
Wilde suggested the state consider only two general siting requirements: That companies prepare an impartial third-party environmental impact statement and that final siting decisions stay at the local level.
Bradford said the public comments will be considered by the Utah Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee, which must submit recommendations to the governor by September.
A second public comment period will follow, and siting criteria should be established before the year is out.
Bradford said it is unlikely the state will issue any permits for hazardous waste disposal facilities during that period.