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Envirocare agrees to pay $197,000 fine

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Envirocare of Utah has agreed to pay a $197,000 fine for violating federal waste-disposal rules at its Tooele County landfill.

A fine of only $30,000 was proposed last year by the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste for the violations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held out for a larger fine, contending problems at the disposal site justified a much higher figure.Envirocare President Charles Judd said Monday he was not happy about paying such a large penalty but it was preferable to a long, expensive legal battle. "We decided it would be better to resolve it now," he said.

The fine is a result of a Dec. 19, 1995, notice of violation sent to Envirocare after a state inspection of the facility, about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Inspectors noted a long list of problems, including such things as improper storage of waste, leaving too much residue in unloaded shipping containers, containers that leaked and had poorly fitting lids, cracks in a concrete storage pad and too much water in an evaporation tank.

Envirocare managers described the violations as minor and said most had been resolved by the time they received the notice.

Among the materials accepted by Envirocare are mixed wastes containing hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials. Disposal of these materials is controlled by EPA rules, which are administered by the state agency. EPA retains the right to intercede if it disagrees with how its rules are being enforced.

That happened last year when EPA objected to Utah's proposed $30,000 fine against Envirocare. The new $197,000 figure has EPA's backing.

It has not been decided whether Envirocare will pay the full amount in cash or be allowed to put part of the money toward environmental improvements authorized by state and federal regulators, said Scott Anderson, manager of the state's hazardous waste branch.

In another matter, the state has given Envirocare six months to either bury certain mixed wastes or ship them back to the company or government agency that generated them.

EPA rules require mixed wastes to be buried within a year of being received at a disposal site unless there are extenuating circumstances. The state in 1996 noted that some of Envirocare's shipments had exceeded the one-year limit while the company officials awaited approval for innovative disposal methods.

Anderson said state officials were unsure whether this qualified as a valid reason for exceeding the one-year limit, but EPA officials were concerned enough to threaten to disqualify Envirocare as a disposal site for material from federal hazardous-waste cleanup sites.

To resolve the conflict, Anderson said Envirocare has been given six months to deal with the disputed material. This is expected to satisfy EPA's concerns and keep the site open to federal wastes. Meanwhile, state officials will decide whether Envirocare had a valid reason to exceed the one-year disposal deadline.