Guest opinion: Environmental impacts of proposed contaminated soils site deserve close study
There has been a lot of emotion and discussion about the proposal to open and operate a landfill site adjacent to S.R. 248. Having worked with landfills and pollution for most of my career, some of my experiences may be helpful in understanding the issues of a landfill and its effects on the environment.
Today, most landfills are lined to reduce the chance of any of the contaminants leaching into the groundwater. Even a well-engineered liner does not guarantee there will be no migration of contaminants. Certain liners, such as plastic liners, are susceptible to leakage due to decomposition and puncture in the course of usage. Some hazardous materials, including trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, seem to be able to penetrate liners and are extremely dangerous to any source of drinking water or agricultural use. Though the city is proposing to transport soil composed primarily of mining tailings, the site from which it comes was also heavily used by the railroad, and railroads were unsuspecting polluters of fuels, lubricants and cleaners.
Park City has a bad history when it comes to contamination. Having been the lead attorney on several well-publicized sites, it is obvious that in the past people did not have the knowledge of what would occur when they dumped things on the ground. Today, we don’t have that excuse, and we don’t want our generation and those to follow to be committed to paying large sums for the continued clean-up of the Park City environment. This matter should be thoroughly studied, proponents should be honest about what they plan to put in a landfill, and everyone should understand the consequences if the geology and hydrology have not been properly studied. The proposed site is very close to a river basin that has already been the subject of a Superfund site and contains a very fragile environment. There needs to be adequate explanations why this site will never be the source of further damage to the river and Richardson Flats.
There are also infrastructure issues that must be addressed when operating a landfill. S.R. 248 has enough of a challenge handling traffic because of the previous determination of Park City not to allow its improvement as a major artery in and out of the city. A landfill will place additional burden on the highway and the interchange with U.S. 40. Trucks inflict 100 times more damage per vehicle than automobiles.
Landfills have a life. What is the expected life of this landfill and how do the operators propose to cap it? What kind of water is available for dust control and how do they propose to capture any water used for dust control so it does not contaminate the river? How will they address rainwater and hydraulic pressure on the site? Where are we going to get millions of dollars to address every issue, right or wrong, raised about the landfill?
Before proceeding it appears everyone involved should become educated, and if it is not clear the proposal will protect health, wildlife and our environment, then it should be struck down on the basis of facts demonstrating such danger.
An alternative is to leave the soil in place at the current proposed arts district location, cap the area and use the site for recreation, transit, parking facilities, public uses and to address other issues. The arts project could be relocated to the proposed landfill site and eliminate the need to move contaminated soil at substantial expense and incur further acrimony in our city.
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