State and military officials signed an experimental agreement Friday allowing the Air Force to begin detonating Poseidon rocket motors west of the Great Salt Lake.
Poseidon detonations were suspended at Gov. Mike Leavitt's request after rocket motor blasts rattled homes along the Wasatch Front and in Tooele County in November.The Air Force initially requested a long-term permit to dispose of 360 Poseidon rocket motors. The experimental order allows the Air Force to detonate up to 40 of the 16,000-pound rocket motors, two at a time. The state will oversee the impacts of noise, vibration and air pollution, but a state policy on the open detonation of munitions remains incomplete.
"The governor's review is still ongoing," said Department of Environmental Quality information officer Carol Sisco. The agreement gives the governor's open burning/open detonation committee power to nix the detonations. "The Air Force must abide by the open burning/open detonating policy that is being developed by the state," Sisco said.
Downwinders spokesman Steve Erickson said he believes the state is conducting a credible review of safety and pollution concerns related to open burning and detonation. But he calls an approval granted before a policy is established a mistake, even if it is labeled as experimental.
"It makes the governor look foolish," he said. "This undermines the credibility of the effort to deal with the full range of policy questions involving open burning and open detonation."
Blasts could begin as early as Tuesday on the Utah Testing and Training Range 20 miles north of I-80 and west of the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County. The state will monitor sound waves at stations to be placed in Grantsville, northern Davis County and in Salt Lake City.
Russell Roberts, director of the Division of Air Quality, said the state is more concerned about noise impacts from the blasts than air quality problems. The state will not be monitoring emissions from the blasts, "But we should be able to pick up anything that would occur - abnormally high particulates, for instance, on this type of activity from our other monitors along the Wasatch Front."
Air Force officials at Hill Air Force Base are supposed to give the state a report within 48 hours of each detonation containing data from the monitoring stations and information about citizen concerns, he said.