Some homeowners near the Sharon Steel tailings may have a layer of dirt as thick as 18 inches removed from their yards and then replaced, or they may have a layer of dirt 12 inches thick trucked in to cover their yards.
Those are two of the proposals presented by state and federal environmental officials to combat the potential health effects of the tailings, which can be seen carried by the wind on many days.The tailings contain lead, cadmium and arsenic, which can cause various illnesses, even if contact is relatively small.
Lead in soil can be transmitted into vegetables, prompting fearsof local gardeners.
The bottom line for individual homeowners in the area is each garden is different. Some people might have used the tailings as fill to put air into the soil. That would give a high lead content. Others may have added lots of peat moss, which lowers the relative lead content. So people who want to know how safe they are should have their gardens tested. It costs about $15 for the state to do it. State officials can provide information of what kind of sample to bring.
Five possible options for cleanup were presented to about 50 homeowners and other interested people Wednesday night in the Midvale City Center.
Residents quietly listened to the proposals with few expressing strong opinions about the controversial subject.
Attorneys for Sharon Steel and ARCO, including former Gov. Scott Matheson, were there in force, arguing that a clean-up of yards, which may cost anywhere from $1.4 million to $70 million, is not necessary.
The attorneys presented a study prepared by a researcher at the University of Cincinnati, and supported by Primary Children's Medical Center pediatrician and toxicologist William Banner. The study, which has yet to be reviewed by state and federal officials, said Midvale children have significantly less lead in their blood than the national average.
Environmental Protection Agency officials and state agencies have not conducted a lead-content-in-blood study of Midvale children because mathematical models can be used to show how much lead will get into people's blood, state toxicologist Daniel Symonik said.
In about two weeks, the EPA will choose one of five tentative proposals for cleanup. Another public hearing will be held on the subject in June.
Five proposals for dealing with the tailings problem:
- Doing nothing
- Replacing the dirt
- Covering tailings with new dirt
- Chemically treating the tailings so the elements do not move through the soil.