for more information:
Jason Groenewold (801) 364-5110
Mick Harrison (859) 321-1586
Craig Williams (859) 986-7565
for immediate release: Wednesday, October 25, 2000
The second round of laboratory results on the pile of Army munitions casings and ton containers dumped off of I-80 and 7200 West show a mixture of chemicals and heavy metals that citizen groups call "alarming." Detectable levels of lead, arsenic, chromium and other toxic organic compounds, some well over EPA regulatory limits, were present.
Samples from the munitions casings and containers were taken by Trina Allen, the former hazardous waste manager at the Tooele, Utah chemical weapons incinerator who blew the whistle in 1997. Last month Allen discovered the pile of munitions, which were once filled with deadly nerve agent then were processed at the Tooele incinerator, as she was driving into Salt Lake City over the Labor Day weekend.
"The second lab results now show total levels of lead over 236,000 parts per million (ppm), which means theoretical levels that could leach into the groundwater are over 11,800 ppm," said Allen. According to Allen, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) maximum allowable limit for lead is 5 ppm. She also said that according to the total waste analysis and sampling data for the munitions casings, the leachate concentrations for Chromium and Arsenic also exceed EPA's allowable limits. "It's disturbing to me that Dennis Downs, Director of the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste (DSHW), is going around saying that "you would have to eat handfuls of this material for it to cause harm.'" Allen said that an EPA representative, when provided with the newspaper article in which Mr. Downs was quoted, was "astounded by the remarks."
Since the samples were taken, Golden Eagle Refinery, Inc. (AKA Valley Oil, Inc and Maple Oil, Inc)., the company contracted by the Army to handle the munitions casings, has filed a lawsuit against three individuals, a grassroots citizens group, and a local TV station claiming trespass. The defendants filed their response this week to Golden Eagle's claims that the sediments which were taken are personal property. Golden Eagle is seeking at least $30,000 from the defendants, which includes punitive damages.
Meanwhile, Golden Eagle's environmental track record itself is not clean. As recently as August of this year, the Utah DSHW issued Golden Eagle a Notice of Violation for, among other things: falsified dates on analytical reports; falsified flash point certification; falsified inventory reports; withholding of records during an audit; failure to adhere to analysis plans, and; failure to maintain delivery manifests. No fines have yet been levied against the company for these violations.
"To me, the only reason this lawsuit was filed was to try and intimidate citizens and get us to back off from acting in the public interest," said Jason Groenewold, Director of the local Families Against Incinerator Risk (FAIR). Both Groenewold and FAIR are named in the Golden Eagle lawsuit. "The state legislature may want to reconsider passing anti-SLAPP suit legislation to protect citizens from such absurd lawsuits." Groenewold said a "SLAPP" suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is defined as a meritless suit brought by private interests to deter common citizens from exercising their political or legal rights or reporting things like violations of law. He said the purpose of such suits is not to win them, but to intimidate opponents.
On a related note, the Army has suddenly requested temporary authorization to "use additional treatment steps and waste management options" on certain chemical agent contaminated ton containers. The Army claims to have recently found two such ton containers which contain "high concentrations of heavy metals [including mercury]." The request also notes that, "the [Tooele incinerator] suspects that many other ton containers may have similar problems."
"The public has every right to question the safety of the munitions pile on I-80 since the Army has found high heavy metals concentrations in its ton containers," said environmental lawyer Mick Harrison. "Wastes from the Tooele incinerator are being shipped around the country to places like Geneva Steel, with levels of lead which alone are dangerous to human health and the environment. The wastes sitting near I-80 need to be contained and cleaned up immediately, and these improper practices need to be stopped."
Lead is one of the most thoroughly tested heavy metals. It has been proven to cause learning disorders and brain damage in children. Lead has been banned from use in household paints and gasoline for decades because of its toxic effects on human health. Similar affects have been found for mercury exposure.
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