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Front Page » December 27, 2011 » Carbon County News » Citizens mistrust PCB proposal
Published 1,386 days ago

Citizens mistrust PCB proposal

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Sun Advocate reporter

Emotions high, but decision on ECDC permit depends on available data

Decades of mistrust and perceived uneven dealings with area corporations came to a head last Wednesday night in East Carbon, as residents put their feelings on the record concerning ECDC's application to amend its storage permit to receiving polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. Citizens made statements and asked questions for the better part of two hours as the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency hosted a public hearing at East Carbon City Hall. Dr. Paul Martinez, who owns a piece of property to the north of ECDC, led the evening's public comments by simply beginning, "I have some concerns and I am against the permit application, as I believe PCBs brought into the community may pose a health risk."

"If the permit does go through and ECDC is allowed to bring in PCBs, this is what I ask of ECDC. I ask that they monitor air, water, soil, vegetation and cattle on Martinez property for PCB contamination in perpetuity, and I would like this testing to be done by a third party," continued Martinez. "It's not that I don't trust the state and I don't trust ECDC, I just think that a third party handling of these matters would be the best way to go and I would like to see a local vendor take care of this. EIS would be my recommendation."

Additionally, Martinez requested that ECDC be bonded against damage to his property.

"If something happens, and there is a catastrophic problem and PCBs do contaminate my property, I would like to have someone be held accountable. I know that East Carbon City is not going to be held accountable. ECDC could file bankruptcy just like other entities. They won't be held accountable, but if they are bonded, at least I can go after somebody for the revenue I might lose."

To give some perspective to the dollar figures involved with a large PCB cleanups, an illegal operation which was discovered in Warren County, N. C., led to years of lawsuits totaling approximately $17.1 million worth of cleanup, according to Martinez. Warren County was one of the first cases of environmental justice in the United States and set a precedent for other environmental justice cases.

While property issues were discussed by Martinez, as a health care provider he spent the majority of his speaking time going over the health risks he feels the dumping of PCBs would bring to East Carbon's citizens.

"I would like to see a demographic healthcare study done on the residents of East Carbon City. I would like to see this done by the College of Eastern Utah (USU-Eastern)," he said. "I talked with Chancellor (Joe) Peterson this morning and he assured me that USU-Eastern has all the personnel readily available to do a study of that nature. In my own practice I see the incidence of cancer in my patients in East Carbon increase. There has to be a reason for it. The state has given me a lot of reasons, none of which are scientifically provable and that is why a study like this is so important."

Cancer concerns

His comments concerning a high rate of cancer and health problems in East Carbon were echoed by others.

Tammy Edwards of Columbia said the youngest of her five children has Goldenhar Syndrome, which she claimed is environmentally caused. She said her other four children also have health problems. "We will be working with cardiologists two days after Christmas to find out what is going on which my children," she stated.

To continue this thread of statements, Mary Archuelta explained that her family who lived in close proximity to a PCB landfill in Lamar, Colo. also had high incidence of cancer.

"I'm tired of being dumped on too in this community," she stated. "We are not a garbage dump, we need to stand up and now in this community."

To accept solid PCB wastes, ECDC must receive a permit from EPA and a permit modification from the State. Both the state and EPA applications have been made available for public comment.

Special cell required

In order to take this waste, ECDC must build a separate landfill cell that meets the requirements of the EPA. This cell would have to consist of two separate layers of synthetic high density poly-ethylene liner and three feet of solidly packed clay. The side slopes would also be required to contain multiple layers. The EPA would monitor the transport, dumping and covering of any PCB material in the landfill. The permit application is currently on file for display at the South Eastern Utah District Health Department and officials at the hearing also agreed to place a copy of the 720 page application at East Carbon City.

Others who made statements during the public hearing had issues with items ranging from ECDC's elevation in relationship to the flood plain to zoning with East Carbon City. Many requested that the EPA conduct an environmental impact study to determine the impact of ECDC's operations in East Carbon since it opened in 1992.

Not deemed hazardous

One main point of contention between citizens and officials was the characterization of PCBs as hazardous waste. "PCBs are not considered hazardous waste in the sense that hazardous waste is sent to the Grassy Mountain facility," explained Roy VanOs of the State Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste. "There are specific federal guidelines for what is considered hazardous waste."

The state does not consider the PCB contaminated material ECDC is applying to store "hazardous material."

As statements against ECDC's permit application continued, those in attendance eventually asked how much credence would be lent to their opinions.

"If I get 10,000 public comments, everybody in Carbon County says, I don't want it, that's the end of their comment. I can't do anything about that,' said Ralph Bohn, a state hearing officer. "I can have everybody in the state of Utah say they don't want it and I can't do anything about it. Unless ECDC has something in their application that it technically in error or they left something out, I have to grant the permit. Unless we get technical comments that say that this is not possible, their permit will be granted."

ECDC's response

After hearing the public's comments in response to their application, ECDC officials listed the following responses to public statements.

• Planning and Zoning - According to ECDC officials, East Carbon City Attorney Jeremy Humes is researching the city's zoning requirements for ECDC. However, landfill officials are sure that the current zone reflects non-hazardous waste. They are waiting for Humes to confirm that he agrees.

• ECDC is planning on making several changes to its rotary dump to insure water/material cannot get outside. The company is also considering extending the building to minimize any chances of dust getting out of the building.

• Kent Pilling, who made several statements during the hearing, stated that the liners ECDC uses have been reduced by half. According to landfill officials, they have approval from the State to reduce one liner which would make them the same as all other landfills in Utah. To date, they still have double liners. Furthermore, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA) cell requires a double liner along with clay. If approved, the new PCB cell would be a TOSCA controlled area.

• ECDC Self Patrolled - ECDC officials reported that the state completes an inspection a couple of times a year at ECDC. The key, according to ECDC, is that the inspection is random and can be unannounced. The company also has auditors, corporate and region personnel whom can show up on site at any time.

"We do run equipment over the bottom of the cell," clarified ECDC officials. "However there are two feet of protective cover and the company insures that the equipment always stays on the waste and never operates on the protective cover. The last thing we want to do is damage the liner."

Well below standards

As a final note, East Carbon City Council member David Avery once again introduced Carl Farley of Greenleaf Americas, who he reiterated is under contract to the city to look out for the interest of local citizens. Despite the fact several citizens in attendance took issue with Farley's assessment of the dangers associated with ECDC bringing in these materials, the consultant again explained his figures and stood behind them.

"In our report, we tried to do a worst case scenario as we are working for the city," explained Farley. "We used the maximum number ECDC can bring in at 500 parts per million within the waste. If that is coupled with the average amount of dust in the air and assumed that all of that dust is contaminated with PCBs, our conclusion was that this contamination would come in at 1,000 times below the EPAs threshold for exposure."

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December 27, 2011
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