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John Hollenhorst ReportingCritics of the Envirocare radioactive waste facility are pushing for new legislation to set strict limits on hot waste. They've been stirred into action by Congressman Rob Bishop's move to pave the way for Envirocare to import 17 trainloads of hot waste from Ohio.
Envirocare says the waste in Ohio is less radioactive than materials they've disposed of already in Tooele County. But critics say Congressman Bishop is helping to open a door they want to slam shut.
Envirocare is a commercial landfill for permanent burial of mildly radioactive waste, much of it contaminated dirt from defunct nuclear facilities.
Congressman Bishop has been getting heat from columnists, letter writers and cartoonists. He quietly pushed legislation to remove a technical restriction on pre-1978 waste. It would allow Envirocare to take an especially concentrated waste from an old uranium plant in Ohio.
Jason Groenewold, Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah: "And its unfortunate that he forgot to give up his ties to Envirocare as a lobbyist when he got elected to congress."
Critics say it's part of a gradual expansion strategy at Envirocare to get more and more categories of hot waste. Tomorrow they'll urge the Utah Legislature to set a strict ceiling on Envirocare's waste volume and to narrow the acceptable categories. They specifically want to ban waste from nuclear power plants and weapons facilities.
Jason Groenewold, Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah: "We're not opposed to the cleanup of contaminated sites around the country. But what we are opposed to is Utah becoming the dumping ground, and for us to take on nuclear waste that we did not generate. "
Critics say hotter waste or higher volumes mean more risk to Envirocare workers and to the public. But Envirocare officials say that's "nonsense."
Tim Barney, Senior V. P., Envirocare: "I don't think the people of Utah are going to fall for this type of fear mongering."
He says Envirocare has never had a safety problem, and there's never been a transportation accident resulting in a radioactive release. The proposed limits, Envirocare says, could be devastating.
Tim Barney, Senior V. P., Envirocare: "It would have a very serious negative impact on federal cleanup efforts going on around the country...There's hundreds of jobs that could potentially be put at risk."
It's not clear whether any new state limitations would even apply to federal agencies that do business with Envirocare. Potentially that's a future court battle. The critics will make their case tomorrow morning before a legislative task force.