Geneva Steel and state officials have cleared the air with a tentative agreement detailing how Geneva plans to reduce air pollution in exchange for the state not to seek further penalties for past Geneva air violations.
The Utah Air Conservation Committee reviewed details of the proposed agreement on Thursday and praised it as "a fine technical solution to a complicated problem." The proposal is scheduled to have a public hearing July 14 in Utah County and face possible final approval by the committee on July 27.Action proposed by Geneve in the 18-page agreement includes:
-Building a $5 million water-treatment plant, which will clean dirty water before it is sprayed on slag to cool it. In the past, polluted water from the coke plant was sprayed on the 2,000-degree slag from blast furnaces. When it flashed into stream, the stream was also polluted with particles from the water.
-During the 18 months before the new treatment plant is built, Geneva will spray clean water from its fire hydrant system on the slag when it is initially poured into cooling pits. Dirtier water will not be used until the slag has cooled condiserably, reducing the air pollution that will result.
-Geneva will construct an additional cooling pit for the slag, which will allow it to air cool for about 24 hours with the use of relatively small amounts of clean water until it cools to below 500 degrees.
-Geneva agreed to give the state Health Department $40,000 to study how to reduce air pollution in Utah County. Officials would not call that a fine, saying it was lieu of a fine.
In exchange for that action, Geneva does not have to admit to any violation of clean-air standards.
The proposed agreement also says it "fully resolves the alleged air-quality violations, including any orders, fines and penalties, including those of Geneva Works' previous owner, USX Corp." Geneva is now owned by Basic manufacturing and Technology of Utah.
Even with the progress the tentative agreement shows, State Environmental Health Director Kenneth L. Alkema said more much tougher work remains to clean up Geneva pollution - especially extremely fine particulates less than 10 microns in diameter, called PM10 dust.
Alkema said the proposal presented Thursday is only the first step to help solve that much tougher PM10 problem, which the $40,000 Geneva is paying for pollution studies will address.
The proposed agreement shows that it will cost Geneva million of dollars. Besides the $5 million cost of the water-treatment plant, the facility will also cost $1 million to operate each year.
Geneva also estimates it will cost $750,000 to return to old procedures of allowing slag to air cool before spraying it with heavy amounts of water.