Environmental Protection Agency and state officials were poised Friday to designate a landfill near Magna as the tomb for hundreds of tons of contaminated kiln dust from the old Portland Cement plant on Redwood Road.
Salt Lake County commissioners threatened to take legal action to prevent that move. Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis said that while the Magna area wasn't his preferred location for the dust, that was better than encapsulating it at the Portland plant site, 1000 S. Redwood Road.By press time Friday, the final decision had not been signed concerning all the details of what to do with the 500,000 cubic yards of dust. Last-minute negotiations continued over how much cleaning up is needed at the Portland site.
But on the most controversial aspect - where to put it - both the EPA and state indicated they would recommend that the kiln dust be taken to a disposal area at 7200 W. 1300 South.
The dust contains cadmium, chromium and other material rated as dangerous.
Technically, the landfill site is part of Salt Lake City, although it is within about two miles of Magna's downtown. It is adjacent to the Salt Lake Landfill.
If the landfill near Magna is the chosen site, said Salt Lake County Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu, "I'm adamantly opposed to that. I certainly don't want it out near Magna, whatsoever." He said would rather have it "done in place" - apparently meaning encapsulated at the Portland plant.
If that's the decision, "I will go and talk to the other commissioners, and hope that they will support me in talking to the (county) attorney's office, and ask for an injunction to stop that."
Salt Lake County Commissioner Bart Barker said the decision sets a bad precedent of moving dangerous material from one part of the county to another.
"We're concerned that there are a lot of other sites that are going to have to be cleaned up. The precedence of moving the material from one part of the county to another is one that concerns us."
Eventually, as the Salt Lake metropolitan area continues to grow, the region might be of more use than as a hazardous-waste disposal site, he said.
DePaulis, reached by telephone Friday as he was about to give a speech in New York City, said the city would have fought desperately against having the waste encapsulated at the Portland plant.
"But we did say that if we were forced to consider the landfill site, that would be better than encapsulation on site."
He was concerned about the Magna residents' worries. He understands how they feel, and wants them to know that "it wasn't our initiative that was driving it to that site.
"We would prefer still to have the industrial waste removed entirely out of the business and economic area, the residential area of the city, away from Magna, and so on. But if that's the decision we have to live with, it is better than having it encapsulated on site," DePaulis said.
Rep. Dan Tuttle, D-Magna, said this is the decision he expected. "I've sent a letter to Wayne Owens (Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah), asking for a congressional inquiry into the impact on the health and the environment of the community."
Jim Scherer, the EPA's regional administrator in Denver, told the Deseret News Friday that the decision may be signed in the late afternoon. The state and EPA still are negotiating about the "action level" for lead - that is, how thoroughly the Portland site must be cleaned.
Kent Gray, director of the new Utah Bureau of Emergency Response and Remediation, said the state recommended that the material be disposed of in the city landfill near Magna. A new landfill cell would be built to hold the kiln dust, he said.
Dr. Harry L. Gibbons, director of the Salt Lake City-County Health Department, said that if the material is to be moved to the site near Magna, "that's better than leaving it where it is. I just wish we could afford to move it out of the county."
In a May 23 letter to Salt Lake County Commissioner D. Michael Stewart, Gibbons wrote that moving the dust to a hazardous-waste zone in Tooele county would cost more than $50 million. However, encapsulating it on site or removing it to the landfill near Magna would cost about $13 million, Gibbons' letter added.