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John Hollenhorst ReportingA broad coalition of interest groups opened up today with a barrage of criticism for a huge groundwater cleanup plan by Kennecott. Although state officials have called it one of the nation's biggest environmental cleanups ever, critics call it a "pump and dump" scheme.
Over a century of mining Kennecott has created an enormous underground contamination problem. At least 50 square miles of groundwater contain hazardous levels of dissolved materials including selenium and heavy metals.
Kennecott's 100-million dollar proposal is to pump the water out and filter it. The cleaned up water, 7000 gallons per minute, all year round, would go to the growing communities that lie above the contaminated plume.
Dianne Nielson, Utah Director of Environmental Quality: “Means that they will have drinking water resources restored that they right now can’t utilize.”
Sounds good, right? Numerous groups held a news conference today to denounce the plan. They say the filtered-out pollution will just be dumped into the Jordan River or onto Kennecott's massive tailings pile, and eventually will settle in wetlands and the Great Salt Lake.
Marc Heileson, Sierra Club: “And it is a little disturbing that birds traveling throughout the hemisphere could pick up toxic chemicals that could alter their reproductive rates because a wealthy mining company is not willing to pay a little extra to clean up their mess.”
The state will be taking public comment on the cleanup plan until November 21st.