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Mapleton Officials, Residents Protest Proposed Contamination Settlement

Mapleton Officials, Residents Protest Proposed Contamination Settlement

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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MAPLETON, Utah (AP) -- Officials and residents of Mapleton made it clear to the state's environmental agency that they are not satisfied with the proposed settlement over the contamination of groundwater by an explosives maker.

At an open house hosted by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality Thursday, they contested the $12 million settlement under which nitrates and other contaminants are to be removed from the groundwater aquifer.

They contend the plan does not fully rectify the damage done by Ensign-Bickford's Trojan Plant.

City Attorney Doug Thayer said, "Why should Mapleton citizens take the risk of bad health or even death when they did nothing to contaminate the aquifer? This agreement should be about holding the responsible parties responsible."

So far, the explosives company has spent $20 million to build and operate cleaning facilities.

Ensign-Bickford attorney James Holtkamp said the proposal is fair and requires the company to pay adequate money for damages while cleaning the water.

"EBCo. is treating the water to deal with the aquifer," Holtkamp said. "The company will continue to be responsible for it until the DEQ says it's clean.

"We've spent literally years with the state getting to this step. We began this process back in 1991," he said.

The agreements include a $9.375 million fund for pumping and treating the groundwater for the next 20 years, the time expected to be required to clean the water.

DEQ's executive director, Dianne Nielson, said, "We've tried to put forward the best proposal that we could see at the time, but that doesn't mean it's the best proposal that we could adopt. They've raised good questions and stated them concisely, and I'm going to go back and evaluate them."

The settlement doesn't affect other claims or lawsuits against Ensign-Bickford, which include a $100 million lawsuit filed by city.

Some residents, including former Mayor Marilyn Peterson, who died Monday from lymphoma, also brought lawsuits against the company, claiming the contaminants were to blame for their cancer.

"The irony of this is that the viewing for Marilyn Peterson is going on right now," said City Councilman Keith Stirling.

The Utah Department of Health completed a study this year that concluded that that Mapleton did not have a statistically greater incidence of cancer and there was no evidence that cancers in Mapleton were caused by exposure to the contaminants.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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