EUREKA, Utah (AP) -- Environmental Protection Agency officials invited to a meeting to hear complaints about their Superfund cleanup got an earful and were shouted down when they tried to reply.
About 60 residents attended the meeting Wednesday and many shouted insults at the EPA representatives.
When EPA officials were called to the podium after listening to residents for an hour, some residents stormed out, shouting that they would not listen to the answers.
After being shouted down at the microphone, the EPA officials said they would provide answers to residents' questions in writing rather than try to address the crowd.
"Who made the EPA God?" yelled one woman.
"I don't know if you paid any attention to what we've been saying," said resident Sheena Draper. "It doesn't look like it. We've tried not to be rude. I'd just like to know how we can get you out of here. That is a serious question."
Ted Linnert of the EPA said he had encouraged the meeting to give residents a chance to voice their opinions.
"We didn't expect this to be a fun night," he told the Daily Herald after the meeting. "I actually encouraged this meeting because it was set up by the citizens. We hold community meetings on a fairly regular basis, but sometimes they might feel intimidated. Because this was their meeting, they felt free to speak."
Instead of leaving Eureka, the EPA will be in the city longer than expected, he said. The $75 million cleanup effort was expected to be finished by about 2007, but because of federal budget shortfalls, the project has been extended indefinitely.
"We have a mandate to protect human health and the environment, and we can't walk away from that," he said.
Residents at the meeting said cleanup of contaminated soil around their homes is being ignored, access to Knightville Canyon is being blocked, their children are not allowed to ride ATVs in the cleanup areas, trees are being cut down, historic sites are being destroyed, property values are so low that banks refuse to give mortgages and the cleanup effort is blighting the landscape.
"When you came here you said this was all for the children, but I'm not seeing how the work you are doing affects them," Mike Jackson said. "You have defaced historical sites and closed the road into the canyon to our children. I would really like to know what your real agenda is."
EPA crews are working to cover a contaminated tailings pile next to City Hall with plastic and crushed rock, but residents said the rock covering the plastic is ugly.
"I'm so sick of looking at that rock every day," Emily Openshaw said. "That is your solution to everything, cover it with rock. It's ugly and stupid. When you first came here you put a lot of fear into us and made us think you were doing something for our kids, but you're not."
Juab County Commissioner Niel Cook said, "If I was you guys, I'd squawk every day of the week until they listened. Everyone should write a letter to Mike Leavitt," the former Utah governor who now heads the EPA.
Many residents have balked at the cleanup from the beginning, denying the lead in the soil of the historic mining town and in their children's blood was any danger.
They said their children were healthy and that lead in the soil was to be expected in a mining town.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)