City leaders are out to make sure emergency crews don't have to waste precious time and resources when dealing with potentially toxic spills and accidents involving hazardous waste.

Members of the City Council recently passed an ordinance empowering crews, specifically the Spanish Fork Fire and Police departments, to respond to spills and waste accidents. The ordinance also allows city officials to pursue reimbursement, through a business or individual, for the cost of a possible cleanup.Those costs include labor, administrative overhead, equipment and any contracted labor, equipment or material used in cleanup.

"Potentially, (the cost) could be enormous," said City Attorney Junior Baker, who helped draft the ordinance. "You never want these things to happen, but there's definitely the possibility of such things happening."

For example, Baker cited two accidents involving spills that occurred in 1988. In the first, a propane tanker overturned on southbound I-15, forcing the evacuation of several homes and businesses. The second involved a spill near Gull Fort on U.S. 6 that could have "become poisonous gas," according to Baker.

Although county crews eventually handled both emergencies, each of which forced hours-long road closures, Spanish Fork officials were also dispatched to handle the evacuations and traffic routing.

Also, the Spanish Fork Fire Department now has equipment, including fire- and waste-retardant suits, to handle small-scale problems, and the city's emergency preparedness director, Don Thomas, has received special training for dealing with potential hazardous waste problems.

View Comments

Because of its location (which contains parts of I-15, U.S. 6, U-214 and U.S. 50), Spanish Fork has many trucking and train routes.

"There's good reason to be concerned at least a little," Baker said. "But now if something happens, we'll be able to do something and not at a huge cost to the city."

In addition, the ordinance makes in illegal for a business or individual to release, discharge or deposit any hazardous substance (either material or water) within city limits. In some circumstances, the city is also empowered to require payment from those responsible for the actual cleanup.

Spanish Fork leaders actually passed a similar ordinance after the two accidents, but it was mistakenly deleted from city codes when officials performed an update earlier this year.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.