Geneva Steel President Joe Cannon said Tuesday that people are justifiably concerned about the levels of pollutants emitted from his Orem plant.
But Cannon also said the potential health hazards should not be overstated. He referred specifically to a 1988 study by Brigham Young University professor Arden Pope, who found in his study that whenever PM10 emissions increased in Utah County, the number of pediatric admissions in hospitals for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma also increased."When I saw the study I was nervous and kind of concerned myself," Cannon said during a Rotary Club speech in Salt Lake City.
But he said he later learned that those ailment have a different cause. "These respiratory ailments are caused by the RS virus, which attacks children.
"You shouldn't understate the problem, but you shouldn't exaggerate the problem either. You shouldn't make extreme and unfounded claims that are not going to develop a workable solution.
"I'm not saying people shouldn't be nervous about the environment. But you shouldn't be irrationally afraid of things."
Cannon said two University of Utah professors have also conducted studies showing no relation between nearness to the plant and cancer incidence.
"Utah County is not the single most polluted area in particulate matter in the state," Cannon said. "We're not saying we're the best in the country and we're not saying we don't have a problem, but we're saying we're taking a major step to correct the situation."
Geneva Steel is the lowest-cost producer of steel in the United States and lower than Europe, Japan, Korea, Canada and most of the other industrialized countries, Cannon said.
About 15 percent of their product has also been shipped to Japan. Last month, 5 percent of their product was shipped to Korea. "It's (the mill) probably not as decrepit as many think, but it is still not a modern steel mill."
Cannon said plant officials want to replace the current steelmaking process, made through the open hearth method, because it's a technology invented in 1890. He said the plant also lacks a continuous caster.
Cannon also said his $226 million modernization plan for the plant will guarantee Utah County residents cleaner air and safer levels of PM10 emissions by 1992.
Cannon said his anti-pollution plan, which includes the installation of three facilities at a cost of $70 million, new steelmaking furnaces to replace the open hearth process, coke oven gas sulfur removal system and a biological wastewater treatment plant, will reduce PM10 emissions by 55 percent when completed.
"Geneva Steel will be as modern as any steel mill in the world. It will be as modern as the Quang Yang facility in Korea," Cannon said. "Sometimes we have adversaries who frequently say Geneva does a lot of talking but not much doing, but these projects are all under way," Cannon said.
"These are all voluntary actions coming at least one year before the federal or state government required us to do it. I'm spending shareholders dollars in this company to comply before we have a legal mandate to do it."