Facebook Twitter



Residents opposed to a giant landfill in East Carbon City rejoiced earlier this year when the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the city might have to hold a special referendum on the ordinances that permitted the landfill.

Now, the opponents are feeling they've been dumped on by the city, which has put a referendum on the June 28 ballot."We don't believe it's our referendum," said Phyllis Johnson, the leader of Citizens Awareness Now, a small but vocal group of residents who have fought the privately owned landfill since its inception. "We were promised a Rolls- Royce and we got a Volks-wagen."

The referendum, to be decided by the town's 650 registered voters, asks whether the landfill should have been annexed into the city. Voters will likely say yes, but if they vote against annexation, then the 2,400-acre landfill will revert to county jurisdiction.

Johnson said the referendum should have addressed the environmental and financial issues surrounding the annexation.

But East Carbon Mayor Paul Clark said the wording of the referendum conforms to the Supreme Court's ruling in April, noting that the citizens' group recently lost a motion for an injunction against the referendum.

The controversial landfill is owned and operated by East Carbon Development Corp., which accepts municipal waste from all over the country, including sludge from Boston and earthquake rubble from Los Angeles.

Opponents do not like having a dump in their back yard, which they say could ruin their property values and could harm local air and water quality. They were successful in getting the Utah Supreme Court to rule that major ordinances, such as the ones that annexed the landfill into East Carbon City, should go up for public vote, if the public so desires.

But the high court left it to the trial court to determine whether the East Carbon landfill should have gone to a referendum. Rather than go back to court, though, Clark decided to go ahead and hold a referendum.

"We'd just like to put this thing behind us and go on with our business," said Clark, whose town is reaping a huge benefit from ECDC, which gives the city 50 cents for every ton of garbage it accepts. So far this year, the town has received $250,000, a great amount of money for a town of 1,200.

As a result, the town's dozen employees are getting pay raises for the first time in years; the town's high school, targeted by the school district for closure, will be kept open; and the town's infrastructure will soon be rebuilt.

Clark said he'd also like to use some of the ECDC revenue to bring natural gas lines to the town.

Johnson, meanwhile, is hoping that voters defeat the annexation, sending the landfill to the county, which could negotiate stiffer environmental monitoring requirements as well as higher fees to both the county and the city.

"Fifty cents a ton is peanuts," Johnson said. "The national average is 3.50 per ton. Some landfills, such as the one in Riverside (Calif.), give $7 per ton to the city."