Carbon County lawmakers discuss mill tailings matter
The United States Department of Energy has included moving uranium mill tailings from a processing site near Moab to the ECDC landfill as an alternative in the federal agency's preliminary management plan. The matter emerged as a topic of discussion at the Carbon County Commission last week.
"I am just here to voice my opinion and the opinions of many people I have talked to in the county and that is that we are against any kind of radioactive tailings coming into the county anywhere," said Jim Marrs, a Price resident and property owner near ECDC. "I and others are concerned about what might happen and we want to voice our opposition even though, at this point, the DOE is only considering our area as an option."
The objection Marrs raised stems from the preliminary plan developed by DOE to deal with the tailings. The uranium processing plant operated from the 1950s through the mid-1980s near the Colorado River.
Concerns have been raised about the tailings being in an area close to where people live and the negative effects on the Colorado River drainage. Officials have documented high levels of ammonia along with raised levels of uranium and magnesium in the river near the site.
Marrs presented a proposal to the commission and asked the county lawmakers to review the recommendations.
The proposal requested that:
The commission review all DOE documents and presentations regarding the situation to assess the impact, risk and danger to the residents if the tailings are moved to Carbon County.
It also asked the commissioners take a firm stand against the relocation of the materials to the ECDC landfill.
That the commission create and approve an ordinance or resolution banning the disposal of any hazardous/toxic/radioactive waste by anyone in Carbon County landfills on private or public ground.
The county establish a formal monitoring process for all landfill operations in the county.
"I don't think the tailings from Moab will end up here," said Marrs. "But this could just be the beginning. I think the county needs to establish a formal position so that 15 years from now they don't try to change the permits at ECDC then."
Two of the commissioners immediately responded that they were opposed to any types of materials coming to the county.
"I already told them I am vehemently opposed," stated commission chair, Mike Milovich. "Years ago ECDC made promises not to bring in hot waste. From what I have heard ECDC would be the last resort for this project."
Commissioner Steve Burge had a similar view.
"I met with Mike Dmitrich (state Senator from district 27 which represents Carbon and Grand counties) and the Grand County commission," he stated. "Their commission said ECDC was a last resort and I went on record opposing it."
However, Commissioner Bill Krompel felt more study was needed before he could make a total decision on the matter.
"My initial reaction is the same as Mike's and Steve's," he noted. "But I'm still learning about this. I am wary particularly about the dust that may cause problems for humans and animals. I am curious as to what ECDC says about this. Did they solicit this business?"
Marrs went on to explain that of the 75 people who attended the public meeting the DOE held in East Carbon, all but a couple had voted by a show of hands to be against the idea.
"Allied Waste Management, which is the parent company of ECDC could probably use the money," said Marrs.
"All these waste disposal companies are having lower rates of return in the last couple of years. I don't know if they asked for it, but knowing how companies operate, I think they would be crazy not to go after it if it was available," added Marrs.
But the question that Krompel had was quickly answered when Kirk Trease, the general manager of ECDC stood up and asked to be heard.
"About two years ago some representatives from DOE showed up in my office one day," stated Trease. "They told me about the situation and asked me if it was something we could handle. They wanted to look around so we gave them a tour."
Trease went on to explain that they had never solicited the business, but that once the DOE brought people through, others also showed up.
"We started talking to the state regulators because we don't want to create problems for our long term situation," explained Trease. "Since they talked with us they have also added the Crescent Junction (Thompson Springs) and Kondike Flats sites to the ideas they have. But those two sites have no waste at all and we are considered a site that already has waste on it. We don't want to put anyone at risk, we just look at this as a learning process."
Trease went on to explain that since Allied purchased BFI a few years ago, their debt ratio had gone way up and that with those acquisitions he didn't think the company could be faulted for wanting to create "internal growth." However, he also stated the company would in no way want to endanger anyone.
"I am trying to get more info and to work with everyone," he said. "People who have comments should get them to the DOE."
Milovich, however, wondered how a landfill that was not permitted to accept radioactive materials could even be considered.
"Well these tailings are not considered hot, yet they are not just plain waste either," stated Trease. "They fall in a kind of gray area, in between. The DOE and their consultants are trying to decide where they fit."
The commission decided to look at Marr's proposal and study the issue.