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Air quality violations, upgrades cost Geneva Rock Products Inc. $1.7M

Published August 8, 2008 1:12 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Geneva Rock Products Inc. is coughing up nearly $1.7 million to cover fines and required improvements after pumping too much pollution into the air at its Point of the Mountain gravel pit.

The fine appears to be the heftiest ever assessed by the Utah Division of Air Quality, which noted a pattern by the Orem-based construction-materials company of exceeding its state-permitted pollution allowances.

Geneva agreed in May to pay the state $1,650,396 - $300,000 in cash and $1.3 million in environmental improvements. Those upgrades, including new equipment and aggressive site management, already are under way.

"We are very interested in seeing environmental results instead of [having] a check written to the state," said Cheryl Heying, director of the air-quality division.

The company mines gravel and sand. It also makes concrete, asphalt and other construction products.

Like industrial facilities statewide, Geneva has a permit from the Division of Air Quality to emit a certain amount of dust and other pollutants. If industry oversteps those allowances, the state risks exceeding federal standards that could result in sanctions, including a cap on transportation funding in some counties.

In this case, violations were discovered in a 2006 annual inspection, said Jay Morris, a DAQ compliance manager. He told the Utah Air Quality Board this week that permit breaches at several other Geneva facilities factored into the fine.

Morris noted that Utah already struggles to stay within federal air-pollution curbs. Inspections are critical to ensuring the state meets its obligations under tightening federal pollution standards.

"It's really the only check and balance we have," he said.

Brian Harris, Geneva's environmental specialist, said the company brought in legal and environmental experts to help reach a final agreement with the state.

Harris mentioned that, since negotiations took more than two years to update Geneva's permit, a similar DAQ inspection review for 2007 was subject to a "standstill agreement" that blocks state action against the company for inspection issues at Point of the Mountain during that period.

Meanwhile, the company is reining in dust and improving its plants in a push to cut about 127 tons of air pollution along the Wasatch Front.

"We are trying to do the best we can," Harris said. "We all live here, and we want better air quality, too."

Michelle Hofmann, a Salt Lake City pediatrician and co-founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air, said she was pleased with the pollution-reduction efforts. But she pointed to the Geneva case as a disappointing example of corporate responsibility.

"If it is more cost-effective to pollute than to pay the fine," she said, "then there is a problem with the system."

fahys@sltrib.com

Too much production, too much pollution

Geneva Rock Products needed to produce more construction materials to fulfill its contracts but did not have state approval to pollute more. In 2006, it produced:

* 2.81 tons of sulfur dioxide above the 19.72 tons allowed.

* 144,709 more tons of asphalt than the 600,000 tons permitted.

* 42,499 cubic yards of concrete more than the 250,000 cubic yards approved.

* 2.7 million tons of aggregate above the 4.5 million tons allowed.

Source: Utah Division of Air Quality