Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Now in our backyard

Guest opinion by Marty Trillhaase, Idaho Falls Post-Register

Marty Trillhaase is the editorial page editor of the Post Register newspaper in Idaho Falls.


Some Jackson, Wyo., folks holler at the highly improbable risk they might be injured by the Idaho National Laboratory.

Yet Teton County, Wyo., is pondering trucking 100 tons of disposable diapers, plastic milk jugs, aerosol cans and other solid waste to eastern Idaho's regional landfill at Mud Lake every day.

A decision will come later this year.

What do you call that?


Chutz pah?

NIMBYism (not in my backyard) on steroids?

Nothing wrong with the Mud Lake site. Its clay layer is so thick there's no need for a liner to protect the groundwater.

And it's huge. There's plenty of room for Jackson's waste. In 10 years, Jefferson County has used about seven of its 1,280 acres. It now handles 120 tons to 130 tons daily from Clark, Jefferson and Madison counties.

Indeed, Idaho's Department of Environment Quality wishes other eastern Idaho counties would use Mud Lake rather than build and maintain their own lined landfills. Once closed, those landfills will require costly groundwater monitoring for several decades.

Nor is there anything magical about a state line. Solid waste travels both ways. A private landfill near Grand View handles hazardous wastes from around the country. There's a chance that Hawaii's waste could be shipped to a private landfill in Elmore County.

Idaho landfills take wastes from border communities in Nevada, Oregon and Utah. And eight of Idaho's 10 northern counties ship their wastes to Oregon and Montana. Because of that, more solid waste probably leaves Idaho than comes into the state.

But the irony here is rich. Jacksonites won't trust Idaho with nuclear research, fearing that radiation could get past more than 100 miles, prevailing winds and mountains to threaten them. Still, we're good enough to take their waste.

The same DEQ that has credibility — but no authority — to approve Jackson using Mud Lake's landfill is suspect with Jacksonites whenever it suggests the INL is safe.

Some have complained about transporting radioactive materials along the local highways. No one is objecting to trucks bearing hundreds of tons of solid waste.

Whenever someone from Idaho takes INL's side, he's accused of letting local economic benefits compromise him. But Teton County is looking at trucking its waste to Mud Lake purely to save money.

Here's the greatest irony of all: Most of Mud Lake's landfill is located on ground that used to be part of the site. The feds turned it over to Jefferson County a decade ago. The site isn't good enough for national nuclear work, but it's OK for Jackson's Dom Perignon bottles, empty tins of caviar and Cuban cigar butts?

Jacksonites would Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, but to them, Idaho is a wasteland.

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