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Carbonites oppose PCBs in landfill, but plan likely a go

Leaders of the strapped town support company’s proposal, which awaits regulators’ approval.

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Besides, he continues, ever since the state Legislature approved a landfill in Tooele a few years ago, shipments to ECDC have plummeted and left city coffers starved. It has meant shortfalls approaching $750,000 in an annual budget of just over $1 million.

City leaders already are reworking the ECDC contract and adding a surcharge on PCBs to pump more tipping fees into the city budget.

At a glance

What are PCBs?

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are human-made organic chemicals that were manufactured for a half-century until they were banned in 1979. Because they are non-flammable, chemically stable, have a high boiling point and provide good electrical insulation, PCBs were used widely in electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment; as plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products; in pigments, dyes, and carbonless copy paper; and many other industrial applications.

People exposed to high concentrations of PCBs and their more hazardous forms, as in fish fat, can experience adverse health effects. PCBs are a probable human carcinogen and have serious non-cancer health impacts in animals, affecting the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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At the landfill, Kirk Treece is proud of his company’s plan for handling PCBs, while protecting the community from harm.

"Our design package is above and beyond what is required," said Treece, who now oversees the new Tooele landfill, which, like ECDC, is owned by Arizona-based Republic Services, Inc.

ECDC plans a disposal cell of about 65 acres, lined with super-strong plastic, served by a separate road and updated to ensure contaminated waste stays put. He estimates the cost of these improvements at more than $4.5 million.

A new license will mean the site can compete for PCB disposal contracts nationwide, including the billion-dollar dredging of General Electric plant waste from New York’s Hudson River.

"We have a right to do that" says Treece, "to develop the permit."

ECDC was created more than two decades ago to handle trainloads of waste from all over the nation, including the Wasatch Front. But a rail rate hike, the construction of the Tooele landfill and loss of Wasatch Front garbage contracts in recent years are among the changes that have cut deeply into ECDC’s business — and revenue going to the city.

The site used to receive 4,000 or 5,000 tons of trash a day. Now it gets about 1,500 tons. PCB disposal will mean new revenue for a site that won’t fill up for more than 2,000 years at current disposal rates.

Warren has led the critics, calling on LaFontaine to resign and on Maggio to recuse himself from ECDC votes to avoid a conflict of interest. At a raucous city council meeting last month, Warren accused city leaders of putting residents in harm’s way.

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The following night, he says, he returned home to find the tires on his truck slashed and a skull and crossbones painted on the back door of this house. Hunt says she has become afraid to speak out — a problem she says many local residents have with other critics of the city’s current leadership.

With all Warren has read about the risks of PCBs, he worries about its potential impact on the community. "It’s a nightmare down here, I’m telling you," he says.

Meanwhile, Pilling is skeptical that ECDC operations are as safe as they’ve always insisted. And he wonders how safe are the springs that he relies on for his stock and washwater. (He hauls in bottled water for drinking.)

"It’s no-win," he concludes. "I think the decision’s made."

Says Hunt, "I hate to feel like we’re banging our heads against the wall."

"But that’s how it is," says Warren.


Twitter: @judyfutah

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