Two local officials are charging that tests of lead levels in the bloodstreams of Midvale residents may be part of a smokescreen to justify leaving the Sharon Steel toxic tailings in the city.
But a spokesman for one of the companies sponsoring the tests says the test should be welcomed for providing hard data about health implications of the tailings.For months, a controversy has been simmering over what the do with the 14.5 million tons of tailings dust and soil left over when Sharon Steel went out of business in 1971. The 260-acre site is contaminated with lead, arsenic and other heavy medals.
Environmental Protection Agency officials earlier this year advocated capping the tailings on-site, but because of a great public outcry and fears about groundwater contamination, the EPA is reconsidering.
In September, UV Industries Inc., a Liquidating Trust, and Atlantic Richfield Co., both of which are involved in litigation about the site, commissioned a blood-lead survey of local residents. About 150 residents will be tested to see if lead from the tailings has entered their bloodstreams.
But Salt Lake County Commissioner Michael Stewart and Midvale Mayor Everett Dahl say they are afraid the test results might be used as justification for ignoring environmental and other long-term health concerns at the site.
Both insisted that the tailings must be removed if further contamination is to be avoided, and the future of the county's water supply is to be protected.
"We are not opposed to worthwhile data being collected related to the site." But they are concerned that data open to differing interpretations "will be used to support EPA's previous shortsighted proposal to cap the site. We believe time, money and effort should be spent on solving the entire problem rather than on studies that will ultimately have little effect on determining what should be done."
But Dale Zabriskie, representing UV Industries, said "We would expect that everyone concerned with this situation would welcome real, hard research data, rather than hypothetical estimates."
UV Industries has learned that the EPA will be making further groundwater studies related to Sharon Steel by the end of the year, he said. "Also, within the month, EPA will begin gathering off-site samples in the Midvale area to test for levels of lead and other metals in the soil."
Zabriskie said results of the blood lead study will be made public in 1990.