Wednesday was the day that certain Sandy neighborhoods were supposed to get the lead out.
But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been weighed down by local concerns about where to put the 24,000 tons of soils contaminated with lead from 19th century smelter operations.The EPA was planning to send the tainted dirt to the Salt Lake County landfill.
The Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Council, however, voted 4-1 on Tuesday to accept the soil but recommended that the County Commission and Salt Lake City Council approve the project.
Lonnie Johnson, the solid waste council member who voted against the project, said he's concerned about the environmental hazards and about unfair competition with the private sector.
And ECDC Environmental, a private firm that runs a gigantic landfill in Carbon County, has asked state and county officials to consider whether the Salt Lake County landfill is permitted to take the tainted soils.
As late as Tuesday afternoon, EPA contractors were gearing up to begin removing lead-contaminated soils from the yards of 17 homes in the area of 8690 South and 300 East. The project is part of an EPA effort to reduce the risk of lead-poisoning to children, who are abundant in Sandy.
Soils in that neighborhood and at 17 other homes near 9000 South and 100 East were contaminated by ore-processing activities in the late 1800s.
While the soils represent a hazard to residents living among them, they are not classified as "hazardous waste" and can be disposed of safely in the Salt Lake County landfill, said EPA spokesman Mike Holmes.
ECDC spokesman John Ward disagrees. "Technically, (the soil) is not scary stuff. But it's our understanding that the landfill is a municipal landfill and we don't believe they can receive this kind of material. If they're not permitted, then the county ought to look at it."
Though ECDC is raising concerns about the legality of sending the soils to the Salt Lake County landfill, the company's interest in the waste is primarily financial. Salt Lake County offered to take the tainted soils for $450,000, winning the bid over ECDC, which offered to take the soils for $750,000, said Carol Sisco, spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Quality.
The commission is expected to consider the Sandy cleanup issue in its meetings on Wednesday and Monday. The Salt Lake City Council may also consider the issue. Either body could stop the disposal of the Sandy soils in the landfill.
ECDC may have an ally in the Salt Lake County Commission. Commissioner Randy Horiuchi used to be a lobbyist and associated closely with Doug Foxley, co-owner of ECDC. Horiuchi also has received campaign contributions from the hazardous-waste firm USPCI, a Union Pacific Corp. subsidiary that owns a controlling interest in ECDC.
As commissioner, Horiuchi has advocated ECDC as a resting site for contaminated materials from Sharon Steel and Portland Cement, two EPA Superfund sites in Salt Lake County.
Horiuchi said, however, that his decision about where to dispose of the Sandy soils will be based upon what's best for the city and county.
"The (county) landfill is a key, crucial commodity," he said. "We're doing everything we can to lessen the amount of material that goes out there."