The sale of U.S. Pollution Control Inc. to a Canadian waste-management firm could bring huge amounts of hazardous and industrial waste to Utah.

USPCI, a subsidiary of Union Pacific Corp., announced last week that it is selling its assets to Laidlaw Environmental Services, Burlington, Ontario.Among those assets is USPCI's hazardous-waste incinerator under construction in Tooele County and a controlling share of the huge ECDC Environmental landfill in Carbon County.

The acquistion of USPCI will make Laidlaw the largest waste company in North America. And that means more waste could be headed to Utah.

"Laidlaw has been around a long time, so they know this business much better than Union Pacific," said Khosrow Semnani, president of Envirocare of Utah, which operates a radioactive-waste dump not far from USPCI's incinerator. "Clearly, Laidlaw has a much larger sales force and they are probably going to do more business than (USPCI) did."

Laidlaw, whose annual revenues exceed $2 billion, currently doesn't have an incinerator like USPCI's, which is capable of burning solid hazardous wastes. But Laidlaw does have many clients that generate such waste.

"The addition of solid waste incineration capability will enable us to better serve our customers and internalize the incineration of our very significant volume of solid hazardous waste," said Laidlaw CEO James Bullock.

But whether more waste actually streams into Utah may be determined by market conditions and permitting problems.

The hazardous-waste market continues to be depressed. Utah's other hazardous-waste incinerator, owned by Aptus Inc. and located not far from USPCI, expects to burn only 32,000 tons of waste this year - less than half the plant's annual capacity.

Semnani said he doubts whether both Aptus and USPCI will be able to survive in the same geographical market.

The Sierra Club, which has been the sole private watchdog group over USPCI, agrees that market forces will keep the incinerator from being much of an environmental threat anytime soon.

Cindy King, the Sierra Club's hazardous-waste issues coordinator, also said that permitting problems and procedures will keep the incinerator down for at least two years.

"USPCI has two major permit modifications pending," King said. "One of them could delay them substantially because it calls into question the legality of their permit."

That modification would reduce the "destruction and removal efficiency" of the incinerator from 99.9999 percent to 99.99 percent. The Sierra Club believes it is illegal for USPCI to reduce the efficiency because the original permitting process contemplated the 99.9999 percent figure.

Perhaps of more immediate concern to environmentalists is the 2,400-acre ECDC landfill in East Carbon, Carbon County. USPCI owns 60 percent of ECDC, a share that will become property of Laidlaw.

With a capacity of 184 million cubic yards - more than four times that of Salt Lake County's landfill - ECDC will become an attractive asset to Laidlaw's ever-expanding customer base of solid- and industrial-waste customers.

And that worries King. "The more waste that comes in, the more possibility there is of violating the permit."

King said an increase in the waste stream will worsen traffic problems and increase the potential for water contamination and air pollution.

Laidlaw's purchase of ECDC also could disrupt the current management of the complex landfill operation. In addition to owning 60 percent of ECDC, Laidlaw will have the option to buy out the other 40 percent.

That 40 percent is currently owned by Steve Creamer, who, along with Geneva Steel owner Joe Cannon, was trying to buy USPCI before being outbid by Laidlaw.

Neither Laidlaw or ECDC officials would speculate on what could happen to ECDC.

"But we believe that ECDC and (the incinerator at Tooele County) are a really important part of Laidlaw's future," said Laidlaw spokesman Doug Williams. "We're very interested in maintaining the jobs and services they provide."