On November 8, 2019, the Utah County Health Department (UCHD) reported that an odor coming from the former Geneva Steel Mill over the previous few weeks had been causing nausea in residents near the facility. At the time of the report, U. S. Steel was cleaning up coal tar ponds. Coal tar is a by-product of the coking operations that were used to make steel when the plant was operational. U. S. Steel was not the original nor the most recent owner of the facility, though it maintains responsibility for some of the remediation of the site.
DEQ’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC) oversees the remediation work by U. S. Steel at the site. The company shut down remediation efforts the week of November 11, 2019, in response to resident concerns about odors. Operations were restarted on November 20, 2019.
The odor has been identified as naphthalene, a hydrocarbon that even at low concentrations can emit a mothball-like smell. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure level (PEL) for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is 10 parts per million (ppm). Air-monitoring badges worn by workers at the coal tar pond indicate that emissions at the cleanup site do not exceed these PEL limits. In addition, the information DEQ has received thus far indicates that the concentrations of the hydrocarbon emissions are below health concerns.
Initial data from air sampling for benzene and naphthalene along the perimeter of the cleanup site indicate that emissions do not exceed exposure limits. Additional sample data have been sent to the labs for expedited review and analysis. A final determination will be made upon completion of this analysis. At the present time, this is believed to be a nuisance odor issue.
Update December 20, 2019
During this hiatus from work, regulators from DEQ, along with U.S. Steel, will review operations at the site and revise work processes to better mitigate odors.
December 4, 2019
U. S. Steel, Geneva, their environmental consultant, AECOM, and contractor, Entact, met with WMRC to present air-sampling data. U. S. Steel is operating in compliance with its corrective action plan but will submit a revised proposal to mitigate the odors.
It appears that there may be multiple sources of odors in the area, so residents are encouraged to contact their local government with information about the odor, location, time of day, and direction of the wind to help officials pinpoint sources.
November 27, 2019
WMRC, along with representatives of UCHD and the city manager of Vineyard, met with representatives of U. S. Steel, Geneva, their environmental consultant, AECOM, and contractor, Entact, to discuss an action plan for recording the timing and occurrence of odors.
DEQ approved an air-sampling plan that began on November 16, 2019. Summa canisters were placed around the perimeter of the facility based on the predominant wind directions and in relation to the location of the likely source, the coal tar pond. Samples were collected in 8-hour intervals. The air sampling continued through November 27, 2019.
U. S. Steel re-started cleanup operations on November 20, 2019. The company implemented more odor-control measures for its operations. For example, U.S Steel has doubled the number of water and deodorizer misters around the coal tar pond. Additionally, they are spraying a foam product directly on the stabilized tar material to reduce odors before it gets transported to the engineered landfill on site.
November 19, 2019
The cleanup contractor stopped all work on the coal tar pond at the Geneva Steel site on November 12, 2019. Surfactant foam was used to seal the pond to prevent additional emissions of naphthalene. The contractor has gathered continuous monitoring of its workers at the site. To this point, emissions from the ponds have not exceeded the OSHA safety standards for workers at the site.
Air monitors were deployed around the coal tar pond to establish a baseline at the site. The air monitors serve two purposes:
- To determine what, if any, emissions of toxic chemicals are occurring at the site
- To confirm the extent of naphthalene emissions from the coal tar ponds.
WMRC has fielded calls from the public regarding a mothball odor, and DEQ has worked with city officials in Lindon and Orem to collect information from the public.
December 11, 2019
U.S. Steel has expanded its air monitoring to include neighborhoods where many of the odor complaints have been originating from in order to provide better data on the health impact. The three locations are identified as Penny Springs Park in Vineyard, Creekside Park in Lindon and Bonneville Park in Orem.
After a hiatus, contractors began operations again on December 10 and will continue operating daily through December 22, 2019. There will be no operations occurring during the Christmas break, from December 23, 2019 through January 2, 2020. Start-up of operations will occur again on January 3, 2020.
DEQ continues to work with U.S. Steel to lessen the odor impacts. Other options are being considered.