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Rep. Wayne Owens, R-Utah, worries that Utah is becoming the "Crossroads of the Waste," and says that when people think of hazardous waste, they regrettably think of Utah.

So he held a press conference on Thursday to again blast a proposal by Rep. James Courter, R-N.J., to ship 340,000 tons of soil contaminated with low-level radioactive waste from New Jersey to Utah for disposal.Courter, who is running for governor, earlier this year proposed moving the waste - which no communities in his state want - to a uranium mine near Ticaboo, Garfield County. But mine owners and potential buyers were not interested, and Owens blasted the plan in August.

Now, New Jersey is looking at moving it instead to a licensed disposal site near Clive, Tooele County - and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says the move would take 10 years and cost less than disposing it in New Jersey.

So Owens is again blasting the proposed move, saying he worries transfers of such tainted soil may also taint the state's reputation - as well as be dangerous. He also complained that Gov. Norm Bangerter and Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, whose district includes Tooele County, have not opposed the move.

"I'm doing this to raise visibility about the issue. We need to talk about it," Owens said.

But Hansen's press secretary, Rick Guldan, said Hansen has closely kept abreast of the New Jersey proposal and has seen no problems with it so far. He said similarly tainted soil is already being shipped to Clive from Colorado, and the soil appears to present no great danger.

But Owens said scientific work has not been completed to determine all the pollutants in the New Jersey soil - which includes thorium, which emits radioactive radon gas. The soil was contaminated by wartime industrial processes.

"Does Utah want to be known nationwide as the `Crossroads of the Waste'?" Owens asked. "The rest of the United States must come to understand that Utah is not a wasteland, not a dumping ground, and no longer available for dangerous storage to meet the convenience of other states."

He noted that on Tuesday, Tooele County residents voted against construction of additional hazardous waste incinerators in their county. "Utah is one of the most beautiful and pristine regions in the nation. We want this perception to endure. Utah is not Ground Zero for radioactive or hazardous waste."


(Additional information)

N-waste blues

Energy Secretary James D. Watkins is bracing for stiff resistance to his plan to store radioactive waste from a Colorado nuclear weapons plant in several states until a permanent dump is completed in 1990 or 1991. The retired admiral suggested he would propose in a private meeting next week with governors from Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington, that those states share the waste-storage burden in the interest of keeping the crucial Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver operating.