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 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, including increased inspections, warning letters, notices of violation (NOVs), compliance orders, and penalties.
Success Story: Hazardous Waste Section Ensures the (Fireworks) Show Goes On
“Christmas in the Nighttime Sky” has been a holiday tradition for the residents of Fairfield, Utah since 2012. The fireworks display, a gift to the community from locally-owned and operated Lantis Fireworks and Lasers, is one of the high points of the town’s annual Christmas charity event.
Lantis uses repurposed fireworks for these displays. Repurposed fireworks come from a number of sources, including materials confiscation by authorities, businesses not authorized to use fireworks, or fireworks that have been damaged and cannot be resold. The alternative to repurposing these fireworks is to dispose of them as hazardous waste, an expensive proposition that also adds to the hazardous waste stream.
In 2018, the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (DWMRC) received word from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) that a fireworks retailer in New Hampshire intended to ship 20,000 pounds of water-damaged fireworks to Lantis Fireworks for potential inclusion in the Fairfield Christmas display. NHDES and Connecticut (location of the retailer’s parent company) had concerns about how the fireworks would be used in the display.
DWMRC’s Hazardous Waste Program Manager Deb Ng reached out to Lantis Fireworks to ensure the repurposed fireworks would be used for their intended purpose. Inspectors visited the Fairfield facility and spoke with the owner about the conditions for use of these fireworks, including a permit application to the Cedar Fort Fire Department, prohibition of fireworks displays on “No Burn” days, and characterization of the residue from the display to determine whether it was hazardous.
DWMRC has inspected the facility numerous times from 2012 to 2018 to ensure conditions are met and provide continuing education on the appropriate use of these fireworks. Inspections provide DWMRC staff with the opportunity to educate businesses and individuals on the proper use and disposal of materials so they conduct business in an environmentally-sound manner. For example, inspectors asked the owner about his treatment (if any) and use of the damaged fireworks during a recent visit. He stated his company didn’t treat or alter the materials the company receives and stages them in a concrete burn pit in the packaging received from the shipper. Inspectors pointed out that torching the fireworks residue could be considered treatment of hazardous waste if the material was characterized as hazardous, then let the owner know how to sample the ash to determine whether it was hazardous or solid waste.
Collaboration between the different Divisions at DEQ ensures that regulatory requirements are applied appropriately for projects/activities that impact more than one environmental area. For example, the Hazardous Waste Section consulted with Director of the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) Bryce Bird and DAQ Minor Source Compliance Program Manager Jay Morris on air-quality regulations and the permits required for burning the fireworks, boxes, and non-treated wooden pallets in the fire pit.
The result: a win-win for the residents of Fairfield, Utah, Lantis, and the tens of thousands of pounds of fireworks destined for disposal as hazardous waste. The community and the Utah County Sub for Santa program benefit from this free family event that collects food and unwrapped toys for needy families in the area. Retailers with unusable fireworks benefit because they don’t have to send their damaged product to a hazardous waste facility. By repurposing fireworks, Lantis can entertain crowds using a product that now won’t pose the threat of future contamination.
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 low-level radioactive waste (LLRW). The Division is also responsible for the Generator Site Access program that regulates all radioactive waste generators, processers, and collectors that utilize the Clive facility for waste disposal. DWMRC 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 alternate feed material (170 KB). Nitrate and chloroform plumes from earlier mill activities infiltrated the groundwater onsite, and the mill is currently under a Corrective Action (CA) plan. Seventy-eight 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.
In January 2018, after consideration of the public comments received between May 1, 2017, to July 31, 2017, DWMRC renewed the White Mesa Mill Radioactive Material License (20 MB) for 10 years. The Groundwater Discharge Permit (10 MB) was renewed for five years, The license renewal also amended the license to allow Energy Fuels to receive and process alternate feed material from Sequoyah Fuels Corporation for its uranium content.
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 groundwater 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.
Rio Algom is in the process of conducting a study (6 MB) to determine the extent of the onsite uranium plume and a path forward on how to address the plume. There are also questions about the final cover of the tailings cell embankment that they need to address. Once both of these issues are appropriately addressed, ownership of the mill site will be transferred to the U.S. Department of Energy.