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State environmental regulators have fined Laidlaw Environmental Services $149,000 for a variety of violations at the company's USPCI hazardous-waste incinerator in Tooele County.

None of the violations - which occurred from March 1994 to January 1995 - directly threatened worker safety, human health or the environment, said Dennis Downs, director of the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste.The company was cited for failing to:

- Modify its hazardous-waste permit.

- Keep proper records.

- Transfer a leaking container into a non-leaking container.

- Clean up a spill of ash near a kiln.

"Even though (these violations) may not have resulted in public health threat or environmental contamination, if you don't (follow these rules), it doesn't allow us to track the waste to see that problems don't occur or won't occur in the future," Downs said.

Laidlaw has been "very willing" to cooperate and correct the violations, he said.

To settle the allegations, the company agreed to pay $99,000 to the state and $50,000 to the Western States Hazardous Waste Project, an 11-state organization that trains environmental inspectors and investigators.

Owned by Union Pacific Corp. until late last year, the USPCI incinerator, located 15 miles from the company's hazardous-waste landfill in remote Tooele County, has experienced numerous problems. Construction delays, new management and design changes have pushed back the trial burn, which was originally scheduled for March 1993.

To date, no trial burn has occurred.

USPCI has conducted two 30-day "shakedown periods" in which it burns limited amounts of waste to prepare for the trial-burn, which is a larger-scale incineration. The company is requesting another 30-day shakedown period.

"If we get approval for that, then we're gearing for the trial burn in early October," Roberts said.

If the trial burn is successful, the company could begin commercial operation early next year. The incinerator is designed to burn as much as 130,000 tons per year.

Whether the company will be able to get that kind of stock, however, is another question. The hazardous-waste market, which was booming when the incinerator was conceived, has fallen.

"The market is still flat. It hasn't changed much," said Roberts. "We've invested a lot of money. It's going to take a long time to get it back."

Though the incinerator is not yet fully permitted, USPCI has already stockpiled roughly 2,000 tons of hazardous waste in its storage facility near the incinerator. That's enough waste to keep the facility running for about six days at full capacity.



Other brushes with the law

This month's fine against USPCI is not the first.

- In August 1994, the state fined USPCI, then owned by Union Pacific Corp., $60,000 for improperly disposing of chromium and mercury batteries, paint filters and contaminated metals and soils.

- In March 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined USPCI $500,000 for violating its permit regarding sampling, analysis and record-keeping.