Another landfill for hazardous waste from other states is not the way to generate economic development in Utah

29 January 2018 Published in News & Events

By Lynn de Freitas and Lindsay Beebee for the Salt Lake Tribune 

What does it say about Utah when our neighboring states think of us as the place where they can dump their nastiest garbage? Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

In a remote corner of Box Elder County, on the shores of Great Salt Lake, Promontory Point Resources, LLC, has applied for a Class V waste permit — a permit specifically designed to accept waste from out of state. But this isn’t household garbage we’re talking about here; this is bad stuff. This is California hazardous waste, which that state defines as “waste with a chemical composition or other properties that make it capable of causing illness, death, or some other harm to humans and other life forms.” Interestingly, California hazardous waste magically becomes non-hazardous once it crosses the Utah border.

It’s also coal ash from throughout the West and Midwest. Coal ash — or, as Utah calls it, coal combustion residual, is the by-product of burning coal to generate electricity and, depending on where the coal is mined, can contain all sorts of dangerous toxicants. These include arsenic, lead, mercury, antimony, boron… You get the picture.

The landfill would also be able to accept special wastes and small quantity generator hazardous wastes, such as low-level infectious waste, heavy metals, solvents and a variety of organic compounds like PCBs.

Here’s a puzzle. Why on earth would Box Elder County and the state not only allow, but actually encourage, the construction of a Class V landfill on the shores of Great Salt Lake and risk destroying one of the state’s iconic resources? Why isn’t there a buffer zone around the lake that ensures the protection of the lake against clearly inappropriate development such as this? Given that there’s over 2,000 years worth of Class V storage already existing in the state — 2,000 years! – surely there’s no reason to permit this facility.

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Why We Care

  • The lake is elemental. It seems to arise from creation itself, the embodiment of Aristotle's classical concept of matter and the universe: earth, air, fire, and water. Seen in this ethereal light -- the gloom of dusk lit by fiery sunlight, alien and snow-covered, leaking water and struggling to exist -- it connects to secret and ancient things. Aristotle's insight may have come to him in a dream, and the dream surely looked like this.

    Thomas Horton, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant