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Radioactive spill worries Matheson

A tanker truck moves through the port of entry in Price Canyon. A few weeks ago another tanker was stopped because it was leaking material that proved to be hazardous. Hazmat crews responded and along with an EnergySolutions team took care of the situation.

Sun Advocate publisher

A March 31 incident involving a spill of radioactive material in Price Canyon while it was being transported by truck to Tennessee was the rallying point for Congressman Jim Matheson's contention that shipping foreign radioactive materials to Utah would be a mistake.

"In this instance, we are fortunate that the Carbon County team arrived promptly and took steps to contain and mitigate the contamination," said Matheson. "The incident highlights my concern about the inherent transportation dangers to the public and to the environment from radioactive waste shipments through our state."

The truck carrying the reportedly 3,000 gallons of material was stopped at the Price Canyon port of entry when an employee at the station noticed that there was something dripping from the tanker.

The solution in the truck was being taken to the southeast for incineration and was being moved from the EnergySolutions disposal site at Clive in Tooele County.

The Carbon County hazardous materials team was called to the scene and members found that around a half gallon of the solution had leaked out of a broken hose on the tanker someone had tried to fix with duct tape.

Matheson said the trucking company's manifest listed the materials as "flammable, hazardous waste and toxic upon inhalation for up to 300 feet of distance" from the exposure site. The trucking company was under contract with EnergySolutions to transport the waste. The spill included benzon, thorium, titanium and uranium isotopes 233, 234, 235 and 238, all of which pose a risk to public health and safety in instances of exposure,"

Jason Llewellyn, the director of the Carbon County Hazmat team said his team didn't directly clean up any of the material however.

"We contacted EnergySolutions and they sent out a team very quickly to clean up the spill," he stated in a telephone interview on Friday. "We tested the materials to see what was there and then monitored the situation while they were cleaning it up so that we could be sure everything was done properly."

Unlike some other reports that circulated around the county, Llewellyn said that no soil was contaminated and transported to a landfill. He noted that the solution just laid on top of the blacktop. He also had praise for the EnergySolutions crew that showed up so quickly and did a good job.

"Unless there is a definite threat to life or the environment we usually give the shipper or originator two hours to send out their own team to correct a situation like this," he said. "EnergySolutions was very good to work with on this situation."

Reportedly EnergySolutions has been billed by Carbon County for the hazmat response.

While not officially reported by authorities, Matheson said the truck driver was fined for failure to secure the load.

Llewellyn said that the truck was repaired, but was not allowed to proceed on but was sent back to its originating point and then it was placed out of service.

"Thankfully, our emergency response, once the leak was identified, was appropriate," said Mathseson. "What is stunning to me is that some believe it would be acceptable to up the ante and accept foreign waste in our state. The evidence clearly shows trucking radioactive waste is complicated. Moreover, there remain many unanswered questions with regard to this alarming incident and I intend to have them answered."

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