The Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (DWMRC) helps businesses and residents handle waste properly and plays a critical role in safeguarding Utah residents from harmful exposure to radiation. In 2016, WMRC accomplished these objectives through:
- Permitting and compliance for hazardous and solid waste storage, treatment, and disposal facilities
- Oversight of facilities performing corrective action cleanup of contaminated sites
- Oversight of the recycling of used oil, waste tires, and mercury switches
- Education and outreach on proper waste disposal and the management of used oil and hazardous waste
- Inspections and compliance monitoring and licensing actions for low-level radioactive waste
- Verification of the classification of radioactive materials shipped from generator sites into the state
- Evaluation of the safety of depleted uranium disposal in the West Desert
- X-ray equipment inspections at medical, veterinary, dental, and various non-medical, industrial and institutional facilities across the state
- Licensing of radioactive materials and uranium mills
- Improved efficiencies
WMRC works closely with facilities to clean up waste-contaminated areas and establishes permit and licensing conditions that ensure waste treatment, storage, and disposal practices protect human health and the environment. Health physicists safeguard citizens from exposure to radiation through equipment inspections and oversight of the industrial and medical uses of radioactive materials. Education and outreach on proper waste disposal, recycling, indoor radon, and radioactive materials are critical components of DWRMC programs. The division has also implemented operational efficiencies designed to streamline its inspection and permitting processes.
Permitting and Compliance
Solid and Hazardous Waste
The division issues permits to solid and hazardous waste facilities to treat, store, and dispose of waste in a manner that protects the land and groundwater from contamination. Permitted solid waste facilities include municipal, commercial, and industrial landfills. The division issues permits to a number of large commercial and government hazardous-waste facilities and ensures compliance with regulatory requirements and all permit conditions through regular inspections. Failure to comply with permit conditions results in a range of enforcement actions.
“I had the opportunity to work with DEQ on a variety of matters regarding project planning, permitting, design, operations, and compliance issues. Presently, we are in the process of completing the construction of a new landfill in Cache County, and I had the privilege to work with Scott Anderson and Doug Taylor on all phases of the project such as site selection, planning, and permitting of the new landfill. Development of a new landfill is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, public project to execute in any community. Usually, the emotions of the affected community are very high and the first response is always Not In My Backyard (NIMBY). (DWMRC) was the gatekeeper entrusted to protect the environment. (The Division) also (considered) the socioeconomics of the community, the project cost, and other public concerns in the development of (the landfill). After 22 years of working with Utah DEQ , particularly the (DWMRC) staff and leadership, I can say unequivocally (that) DEQ personnel are very professional, helpful, responsive, and sensitive to the public needs while protecting our environment.” — Issa Hamud, Director, Logan City Environment Department
Low-level Radioactive Waste (LLRW)
DWMRC is responsible for licensing, permitting, and compliance monitoring for the EnergySolutions waste management facility in Clive, Utah, one of only four shallow land disposal facilities in the country that can accept LLRW. The division is also responsible for the Generator Site Access program that regulates all radioactive waste generators, processors, and collectors that utilize the Clive facility for waste disposal. WMRC licensing and oversight ensure that radioactive waste entering Utah meets Class A state requirements and that the handling and disposal of LLRW at the site is protective of public health and safety.
The division issues licenses and permits for uranium mills that extract uranium from mined ore or recover uranium from materials containing uranium, known as alternate feed material. Currently, the state only has one active, conventional uranium mill, but the owner of a second mill has requested a return to active operations pending a decision on a license renewal request to DWMRC.
White Mesa Mill- Energy Fuels
Built in 1979, the White Mesa Mill processes uranium ore and alternative feed material. Nitrate and chloroform plumes from earlier mill activities have infiltrated the ground water onsite and the mill is currently under a Corrective Action (CA) plan. One hundred and twenty monitoring wells are located onsite, with some of the wells testing for as many as 38 possible contaminants. The nitrate and chloroform remediation plans require Energy Fuels to pump the groundwater and treat it by evaporation and/or use it as process water. Concentrations of both nitrates and chloroform have decreased since remediation began.
Shootaring Canyon – Anfield Resources
DWRMC approved the transfer of the Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill from Uranium One to Anfield Resources on January 29, 2016. The mill hasn’t been operational since 1982, when it ran for 76 days. It ceased operations when uranium prices dropped. On June 30, 2016, Anfield Resources submitted a license renewal application to the division to transition the mill from standby to operational status. The license renewal is currently under review by the DWMRC pending, among other required documentation, a financial feasibility report.
The Rio Algom Mill began operations in 1972 and operated almost continuously until 1989. The site is currently in the process of decommissioning and closure by Rio Algom, the current owner and licensee. A uranium plume contaminated ground water onsite, and the license includes groundwater monitoring requirements and concentration limits approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) prior to transfer of Agreement State status to Utah, when DEQ became the licensing authority. The two tailing cells at the mill have been covered and closed. Once the remediation completion report on final runoff controls for the tailings cover is approved, the mill site will be turned over to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The division works with companies through its Corrective Action Program to remediate environmental contamination from the improper storage, treatment, or disposal of solid or hazardous waste. Corrective Actions (CA) ensure that facilities deal with these releases properly to minimize harm to the public and the environment. WMRC’s collaborative efforts with businesses and developers on these cleanups lead to timely resolution of environmental issues and a faster return of contaminated lands to beneficial use. WMRC also prepares Site Management Plans that allow facilities to continue operations while still protecting workers and environmental receptors from residual contamination on these sites.
Hill Air Force Base
DWMRC collaborated with Hill Air Force Base (HAFB) to replace one of the base’s solvent-based degreasers with a water-based degreaser. The project grew out of a Notice of Violation (NOV) and settlement for an incident involving employees who illegally disposed of mercury at the base several years ago. DEQ had an innovative proposal for HAFB: if the Air Force paid for a project on the base that reduced air and water pollution, DEQ would apply the amount that HAFB spent on the project toward the cost of the stipulated settlement for the violation.
“The move from a solvent-based degreaser to a water-based degreaser eliminated harmful VOC emissions from both the ambient air and the enclosed indoor work space. Workers can now degrease equipment without having to put on hazmat suits and respirators. Because spent solvents from degreasing operations are listed hazardous wastes, they must be managed and disposed of properly. Water-based degreasing eliminates these hazardous wastes altogether, and the wastewater from degreasing can be processed at the onsite treatment plant. The recently installed aqueous degreaser has filled an environmental health, air quality, and hazardous waste need all at the same time. Shop floor workers do not need to work in respirators now (a huge morale booster), solvent air emissions from the previous solvent degreaser are gone, and aqueous waste from the operation can now be sent to the industrial waste water treatment plant on base rather than sent off (and paid for) as hazardous waste.” — Wayne Downs, Hazardous Waste Program Manager, Hill Air Force Base
Tooele Army Depot South (TEAD-S) Munitions Destruction
The U.S. Army worked with DWMRC to properly dispose of chemical munitions found aboveground during corrective action (CA) activities at the Tooele Army Depot South (TEAD-S). Using a specialized, mobile explosive destruction system (EDS), TEAD-S was able to successfully destroy the 235 munitions discovered onsite.
Before hazardous waste regulations were enacted in the 1970’s, TEAD-S placed unused chemical munitions in trenches or pits, lit them on fire, and then covered them with fill dirt. This disposal practice, typical of the era, continued for almost 30 years. As a result, large areas of the Depot were contaminated with hazardous waste from munitions detonation and disposal.
Permitted facilities that treat, store or dispose of hazardous wastes are required by federal law to take corrective action (CA) on hazardous releases into the soil, water, or air. Under the CA required by DWMRC for its hazardous waste permit, TEAD-S had to complete a site-wide inventory to determine whether past practices had resulted in hazardous releases. This inventory included inspections for visible munitions at two large Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs). Over the course of several months, TEAD-S personnel located over 200 chemical munitions on the surface of these SWMUs.
TEAD-S initiated disposal of these munitions under a DWMRC permit. The Army deployed one of its mobile explosive destruction system (EDS) units from Maryland to Utah to treat the munitions onsite. Treatment operations began June 14, 2016. Operators loaded the munitions into a large stainless-steel chamber, detonated them, and neutralized any remaining chemical materials with a reagent injected into the chamber. The project was completed on Oct. 4, 2016, and the last shipment of waste from the EDS operations was sent to a licensed hazardous waste facility on October 31, 2016.
Education and Outreach
Radon Awareness in Utah Increases Thanks to DEQ Outreach
Radon has often been called the silent killer, but DEQ’s Radon Program doesn’t want it to stay that way. That’s why the agency’s radon outreach efforts — through one-on-one conversations, television interviews, presentations in neighborhoods, school testing, and real estate classes — strive to spread the word about the hidden dangers of radon gas.
DEQ’s Radon Coordinator answers phone calls from concerned residents every day, and about half of the calls to the agency’s main phone number are inquiries about radon. A single television interview about radon generated over 3,000 email messages and hundreds of phone calls. The radon webpage is consistently in the top ten of most-visited pages on the DEQ website.
The 2016 legislature, recognizing the importance of radon education and outreach, appropriated $150,000 to the radon program for a media campaign and free test kits for low-income residents.
Whether it’s talking through high test results with a concerned homeowner, explaining proper mitigation techniques, or visiting a residence to set up a continuous radon monitoring test, DEQ’s Radon Coordinator always takes the time to provide Utah residents with a listening ear and answers to their questions.
“Eleanor (DEQ Radon Coordinator), I am SO GLAD you called me. I am grateful I came right over to his house, you may have saved a life if they slept downstairs in that room. The worst part about the (improperly installed radon mitigation system) was (that) it was only two feet from the furnace and pulling conditioned air out of the area and room. It is very possible they could have gotten carbon monoxide poisoning from back drafting.” — John Seidel, Radon Be Gone Certified Radon Mitigation Company, Trainer, Western Training Regional Center
Education and outreach are key components of DWMRC programs. The division educates businesses and residents on the proper disposal/recycling of solid and hazardous wastes to prevent soil and groundwater contamination from the improper storage or disposal of wastes. The used oil and waste tire programs, for example, have dramatically reduced the health hazards from these two waste streams and helped encourage proper disposal and recycling of these materials.
DWMRC provides comprehensive information on the management of household hazardous waste, recycling, pollution prevention, and best management practices for specific businesses. The used oil and small-quantity hazardous waste generator programs offer presentations and training to the public and businesses as part of their public outreach efforts. The Indoor Radon Program is dedicated to providing the public with the tools to recognize and remediate elevated levels of radon in homes and schools.
The Used Oil Program makes it easier for do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) to properly dispose of used oil, thanks to its extensive public education and outreach program and collaboration with Utah’s 13 local health departments. Over 400 locations throughout the state accept used oil, many of them private companies that have registered with DWMRC as collection centers. A reimbursement program provides financial incentives for businesses collecting and recycling used oil. The program provides basic used oil and pollution prevention training for businesses, community groups, professional organizations, and schools, along with short videos that explain how and where to recycle used oil.
The Waste Tire Program oversees the storage, disposal, and recycling of waste tires to reduce health and safety hazards, decrease the number of tires in landfills, and encourage the tire-recycling industry. The Waste Tire Recycling fund provides partial reimbursement of the cost of transporting, processing, recycling, and disposing of waste tires. Since the program’s inception in 1991, tire recycling has increased dramatically. Utah generates approximately 2 million waste tires a year, most of which are recycled or processed within the state at six registered tire recyclers.
Small Quantity Generators of Hazardous Waste
DWMRC provides compliance assistance for small businesses that generate less than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste per month. This program has been successful in helping small businesses understand the requirements necessary for compliance with the hazardous-waste management rules specific to small business. Although DWMRC visits approximately 150 companies a year through this program, there remain many small generators who are not aware of the compliance assistance program. The division collects information about these other small-quantity generators through trade associations, word-of-mouth, and complaints received from neighbors. The aim is educate these small-waste generators on the proper disposal of hazardous wastes to protect their workers and the environment.
“Thank you very much for taking time out of your schedules to present the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) and used oil topics. The students received valuable information that you presented.” — Leon F. Pahler, PhD, MPH, CIH, Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational & Environmental Health, University of Utah School of Medicine
Electronics are the fastest growing waste stream in the country, with predictions that approximately 3 billion electronics will be discarded by 2016. DWMRC is particularly concerned about the mismanagement of recycled and discarded Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) television and computer monitors. E-waste contains a wide range of hazardous materials, including heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. CRT screens in particular contain high levels of lead. Improperly disposed e-waste can end up in landfills where these toxic substances can contaminate soils and groundwater.
To combat this problem and inform the public of environmentally safer options, DWMRC publicizes electronic recycling events, maintains a list of recycling centers that accept electronics, and identifies manufacturers that participate in electronics take-back programs. The division also inspects electronics recyclers to ensure that they are managing recycled electronics appropriately.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and a serious problem in Utah. One in three homes in the state test above the EPA action level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/l) of air, with homes testing at an average of 5.3 pCi/l. The radon program provides the following services:
- Radon awareness through public outreach and education
- Low-cost test kits to Utah residents
- Indoor radon surveys in target areas
- Individualized assistance to homeowners and public agencies
- Public school testing
- Real estate training on testing, disclosure, and mitigation
- Offers an online link through its website to access and order $9.00 test kits
- Provides information on test results by zip code
- Sponsors a radon poster contest in the schools
- Works with home builders and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to incorporate radon resistance into new construction projects
- Provides free continuing education (CEU) courses on radon for real estate professionals throughout Utah
Partnerships between the radon program and local health districts, hospitals, Utah Department of Health, Utah Builder’s Association, and community outreach programs have increased public and professional awareness of the risk of indoor radon exposure in the state.
DWMRC’s X-ray inspection program safeguards patient health by making sure that diagnostic and therapeutic radiological equipment uses the lowest amount of radiation necessary for a given procedure. Highly trained radiological inspectors evaluate the performance of X-ray units and radiation safety practices at these facilities on a regular basis.
The division provides support and guidance to facilities with X-ray equipment, including procedures for measuring and reducing patient and non-patient exposure. Regularly scheduled visits from inspectors provide medical and dental professionals with the opportunity to ask questions, receive additional safety guidance, and review exposure levels and instrument calibration. Inspections and radiation safety advice during inspections have increased compliance rates from 70 percent to 90 percent over the past seven years. As the use of radiological diagnostics increases in medical, dental, veterinary, and industrial practices, the proper operation of X-ray units is crucial for protecting individuals from unnecessary or even harmful exposure to radiation.
“I was very impressed with the speed and accuracy of the inspection. Most people might worry about having an inspection, but I loved the peace of mind that it gave me that everything was set up correctly.” — Dr. James D. Beadle, Sound Corrections Chiropractic, PLLC
In 2009, EnergySolutions requested a license amendment for the disposal of large quantities of depleted uranium (DU) at its facility. DU is a unique form of low-level radioactive waste that becomes more radioactive with time. State rules promulgated in 2010 require the company to complete a performance assessment (PA) to determine whether it can meet federal and state performance standards to protect public health and safety before accepting DU at the facility. EnergySolutions submitted a site-specific performance assessment in 2011, and DWMRC, in recognition of the inherent scientific and technical complexities, hired outside contractor S. Cohen & Associates (SC&A) in August 2013 at the request of the licensee to provide technical support in evaluating the PA for adequacy.
DWMRC and SC&A conducted meticulous reviews of the PA and submitted detailed questions, observations, and concerns regarding technical and regulatory issues surrounding the disposal of DU. EnergySolutions requested, and was granted, several extensions to perform and submit additional analyses and respond to the various items raised in the technical evaluations conducted by WMRC and SC&A.
DEQ’s consultant finalized its Safety Evaluation Report (SER) in April 2015, identified eight issues in the PA that remained unresolved, and stipulated seven conditions to be met in order to move the project forward. EnergySolutions requested additional time to address these issues. DWMRC subsequently held two public information meetings on the SER to provide the public with the opportunity discuss report findings with DEQ and its consultants. In late November 2015, EnergySolutions submitted a revised model (version 1.4) in response to issues raised in the April 2015 Draft Safety Evaluation Report (SER), general comments on the content and scope of the SER, and specific technical comments and edits to the SER.
The review of model 1.4 was, for various reasons, placed on low priority beginning February 2016. The project has been elevated to high priority beginning January 2017. DWMRC plans to have an interrogatory of the version 1.4 model completed in late spring of 2017, with version 2 of the SER issued either Summer or Fall of 2017, depending on the time required to resolve any outstanding issues. The division will provide a second, 60-day public comment period at that time, followed by an agency decision to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the PA.
Continuous Improvement/SUCCESS Framework
DWMRC is committed to continuous improvement to improve performance and implement innovations that advance quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. Listed below are a few of the ongoing continuous improvement/SUCCESS Framework process improvements within DWMRC.
Waste Management Permitting
The division continues to work on process improvements to ensure enforceable permits are completed in an efficient and timely manner. The division is monitoring trends and resolving technical issues that have required additional time to address.
Waste Management Compliance
The division continues to work on process improvements to ensure permit compliance in the regulated community. Enhanced compliance tracking has increased attention to time frames and further improved compliance rates.
Improvements to the program have led to significant efficiencies in X-ray inspections, including the following:
- Newer equipment that cuts data collection time approximately in half
- Streamlined reporting process
- Data collection and data transfer using an iPad rather than pen and paper
- Administrative staff taking on most of the filing duties, freeing inspectors to visit more facilities
- Number of sites undergoing Corrective Action: 44
Some sites are still being investigated, some are being remediated, and some are under site management.
- Numbers of landfills: 123
- Number of recycling operations: 32
- Number of tons of solid waste disposed: 4,456,506
- Number of Generators
- Large-Quantity Generators: 152
- Small-Quantity Generators: 284
- Conditionally-Exempt Small-Quantity Generators: 1315
- Number of Permitted Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities: 14
- Tons of Hazardous Waste (based on 2013 Bi-annual Report)
- Generated in Utah: 40,362 tons
- Managed at Top Three Facilities in Utah
- Clean Harbors Aragonite: 67,587 tons
- Clean Harbors Grassy Mountain: 45,947 tons
- EnergySolutions: 2,131 tons
- Used oil: 437,124 gallons
- Waste tires: 44,356 tons
- E-waste @ 2.9 pounds per capita (based on data collected from the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse)
- Mercury Switches: 4,064 switches or 8.9 pounds of mercury in FY 2016
- Approximately 2800 facilities with registered X-ray units
- Units contain 9,333 x-ray tubes requiring inspection
- WMRC staff inspected 447 facilities and 1127 tubes in FY 2016
- Qualified experts inspected 288 facilities and 1103 tubes in FY 2016