Trash By Train

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This page was last updated on May 15, 2022.

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The movement in Utah of municipal solid waste by rail started in September 1992 when the East Carbon Development Corporation opened its landfill in East Carbon, Utah, near Sunnyside. Cities in Utah County were the first to ship their solid waste to East Carbon, beginning in March 1993. Other cities in Weber County and Salt Lake County followed in 1997 and 1999.

The disposal of non hazardous solid waste became very competitive during the late 1990s and early 2000s, with large waste companies merging and acquiring their rivals. In the 2003-2004 time period, Union Pacific Railroad decided to not support the concept of trash by train, and began raising its rates. By this time, there was just one large waste management company in Utah, Allied Waste Industries, and in April 2006, they opened their own landfill in Tooele County, rather than continuing to use the ECDC site in Carbon County. With the change in landfill sites, Allied Waste began using trucks for the entire disposal trip, instead of a combination of trucks and rail cars. The three truck-to-rail transfer stations in Weber, Salt Lake and Utah counties closed their rail-related facilities, and trash-by-train came to an end in Utah.

The hazardous landfill at Clive, Utah, was already in place in July 1985, when the first load of radioactive tailings were moved from the Vitro uranium mill site in the central Salt Lake Valley. Before the removal of the 2.9 million tons of Vitro radioactive waste, the Clive landfill was much smaller and had only previously accepted heavy metals from small precious metals refineries.

In 1991, USPCI, under Union Pacific ownership, opened the hazardous waste disposal site at Clive, a siding in western Utah on UP's former Western Pacific mainline between Salt Lake City and Wendover. The cost to develop the site was reported as $200 million. (Journal of Commerce, January 4, 1995)

ECDC Landfill

In August 1992, the landfill site of East Carbon Development Corporation began accepting non-hazardous municipal waste by truck and by train. The company had been organized by a group of investors in June 1989, and site permits and preparation took over two years, with actual construction starting in June 1990. The first rail car load of municipal waste arrived in September 1992. One of the first customers was the Utah County Solid Waste Special Service District, which finished its truck-to-rail transfer station at Lindon in March 1993, and began shipping solid waste to East Carbon.

The private investment group that organized East Carbon Development Corporation in 1989, sold an 60 percent interest in the company to USPCI in March 1993. The company was reorganized as ECDC Environmental, LC. At the time, USPCI was a subsidiary of Union Pacific Railroad.

USPCI owned 60 percent of ECDC Environmental, LC. (Union Pacific SEC filing, dated March 22, 1994)

(Read more about USPCI)

In December 1995, Union Pacific sold its USPCI subsidiary to Laidlaw, including USPCI's 80 percent interest in ECDC Environmental. (Some sources show the figure as 60 percent; the 80 percent figure comes from Laidlaw's SEC filings.)

In December 1996, ECDC Environmental completed construction of a rail transfer station for Ogden, Utah in Weber County, and began shipping 120,000 tons per year of municipal waste under a 20-year agreement.

(Read more about Weber County's trash trains, below)

On December 30, 1996, Allied Waste Industries completed its purchase of Laidlaw, Inc. At the time, Laidlaw provided solid waste collection, transportation, storage, recycling and disposal services in 18 states and 7 Canadian provinces. Laidlaw's operations included 140 facilities, of which 73 provide solid waste hauling services, 31 provide recycling services and 29 were sanitary landfills, including the ECDC landfill at Sunnyside, Utah. The combined company would have 49 sanitary landfills, 29 transfer stations and 115 collection facilities. The sale had a reported value of $1.5 billion.

Full ownership of ECDC Environmental, LC, and its ECDC disposal site, was purchased by Allied Waste Industries on December 18, 1997. The prior owners were a combination of Laidlaw Environmental, and RACT of Utah, Inc., the original investment group. At the time of the sale, it was believed the ECDC site was the largest landfill in the country, on a 2,400-acre site of which 1,660 acres are currently permitted for development. The facility accepted approximately 3,500 tons per day of waste, most of which is transported to the site via railroad. The purchase price was reported as $90 million. (Allied Waste Industries news release dated December 18, 1997; Deseret News, December 19, 1997)

At the time of the above sale, Allied Waste Industries described itself as "a vertically integrated solid waste management company providing non-hazardous waste collection, transfer, recycling and disposal services to over 1.4 million residential, municipal and commercial customers located in 18 states. The company conducts its operations through 77 collection companies, 42 transfer stations, 20 recycling facilities and 56 landfills." (Allied Waste Industries news release dated December 18, 1997)

In December 2008, Allied Waste Industries, the number two waste management company in the United States, merged with Republic Services, the number three company. The number one company, by a wide margin, is Waste Management, Inc.

(Read more about Allied Waste Industries, below)

By 2010, the site was being operated as ECDC Environmental and was owned by Republic Waste Services, Ltd.

During 2013, ECDC's East Carbon landfill accepted just 15,991 tons of municipal solid waste, all from local cities. Also, during 2013, ECDC accepted 263,100 tons of industrial waste, most of it by rail car.

Weber County

Federal regulations regarding landfills forced the closure of Ogden's land fill on Avenue A in West Ogden in 1997. These regulations for municipal solid waste landfills were in the form of standards issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, enacted by federal law on October 9, 1991 as an amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). These amendments included requirements for ground water monitoring of existing landfills, which in-turn created a financial hardship for many municipalities. The initial date of compliance was set as October 9, 1993, with an extension until October 9, 1997 for smaller landfills. (Read more about RCRA) The regulations are described in Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 258, abbreviated as 40 CFR 258. (Read 40 CFR Part 258 at the GPO web site)

The changes to the RCRA directly affected the Weber County landfill in West Ogden, by not allowing an active landfill that was located on a 100-year flood plain, unless it could be demonstrated that the design of the landfill would resist the effects of 100-year flood. (40 CFR Part 258.11)

After the closure in 1997, most waste for Weber County was processed through a transfer station in West Ogden on Wilson Lane, and containerized, and shipped out of the Weber County to a regional landfill. Initially this was done by rail haulage to a facility in Sunnyside, Utah, owned by ECDC Environmental. In 2006 rail operations were converted to trucking, and waste was shipped to a facility in Tooele County owned by Republic Waste. (Weber County Solid Waste Management web site; accessed July 2, 2016)

The contract was between Weber County Sold Waste Management, a local government agency, and ECDC Environmental. Allied Waste purchased ECDC Environmental in 1997. The county initiated the contract with ECDC for rail hauling to East Carbon, but in 2003-2004 rail haulage became unmanageable, with waste not getting in or out of the county's facility on a reasonable schedule. The trains with empty containers were arriving back at Ogden many hours, or large portions of a day, late, and the containers of solid waste were backing up at the Ogden transfer station, as well as the the supply of empty containers was becoming too few to accommodate the needs of the transfer station. Allied Waste proposed converting to a truck hauling operation, and were already handling the solid waste transportation needs of Salt Lake County and Utah County, using the same fleet of trucks. (Weber County Commission Meeting Minutes, June 15, 2010)

The Weber County transfer station is located on Wilson Lane in West Ogden. Although the site has rail access, it was a separate railroad (Utah Central) that provided rail car switching services. Weber County soon found the service to be unreliable, and more expensive to have two railroad companies involved in the movement of its trash. The solution was to load the trash into the same containers at the transfer station, but instead of being directly mounted to rail cars, the loaded containers were moved by truck to an area Union Pacific's Ogden rail yard, adjacent to the old PFE ice plant. There, the containers were transferred by a large fork lift from the trucks to the rail cars.

The following comes from the Salt Lake Tribune, April 18, 2005:

Kory Coleman, district manager for Allied Waste in Utah, said Weber's problems have not developed because it's a harebrained idea to haul trash, by rail, up to 180 miles. It works all the time in the Midwest and East, where Allied, the second largest non hazardous-waste company in the country, has operations. It doesn't work, Coleman says, when the railroad doesn't want the business. "They've done very little over the last three years to improve the service. They continue to raise the prices significantly. We take that as a message."

Union Pacific spokesman, John Bromley declined to talk about the garbage-hauling contracts in detail, but noted that the railroad inherited the garbage-hauling business in Utah from Southern Pacific, which UP acquired in 1996. It's true we have capacity constraints on our system. We are being selective," acknowledged Bromley. Coleman says it was difficulties with Union Pacific that prompted Allied Waste to begin looking to build a landfill closer to the Wasatch Front several years ago.

By contract, Allied Waste is responsible for transporting garbage from the Wasatch Front counties. Those contracts allow Allied to pass on small rate increases each year, but the railroad has given Allied double-digit price increases in each of the past few years, including 27 percent last year, Coleman says. "We just said, 'We need to find another option.' "

Allied Waste ultimately bought out Wasatch Regional, a landfill, about 45 miles west of Salt Lake City and located north of Interstate 80. It would be about as large as Salt Lake County's landfill, which takes 2,200 or 2,500 tons of garbage a day. Construction began this month and it is expected to begin taking trash from Weber and Tooele counties in August or September, Coleman says. (Salt Lake Tribune, April 18, 2005)

The Weber County Solid Waste Management web site says the change was in 2006. "Since the closure of the west Ogden A Avenue landfill in 1998 [sic] most waste has been processed through a transfer station, containerized, and shipped out of the County to a regional landfill. Initially this was done by rail haul to a facility in Sunnyside, Utah (near Price) owned by East Carbon Development Corporation. In 2006 rail operations were converted to Trucking and waste was shipped to a Republic Waste owned facility in Tooele County west of the Great Salt Lake."

In April 2006, Allied Waste, owners of the East Carbon landfill, opened a new landfill in Tooele County, known as the Wasatch Regional Landfill. At the same time, Allied stopped using rail cars to move containerized solid waste from the Salt Lake Valley transfer station to the East Carbon landfill, and began shipping the solid waste from both Salt Lake and Weber counties to the new landfill in Tooele County.

Tooele County

In early 2005, the Utah state legislature passed a resolution to allow the construction of a new non-hazardous sanitary landfill in Tooele County. The resolution is identified as S.C.R. 2, and was approved on February 18, 2005 during the 2005 general session of the legislature. This would directly affect the future of the ECDC site in Carbon County by diverting waste that was already on long term contract. But because the same corporation (Allied Waste Industries) owned both sites, and would be handling the movement and disposal, the change would take place without regulatory approval. Another major change would be that Union Pacific would no longer be involved in the time-sensitive movement of municipal waste from Weber, Salt Lake and Utah counties, with transportation taking place by the use of trucks rather than trains. The East Carbon site would continue to accept out-of-state industrial waste, but the loss of municipal waste would result in a significant drop in tonnage, with a greatly reduced portion of tipping fees passing to East Carbon City, Utah. The Utah legislature was involved because portions of both disposal sites are located on school trust lands, and resulted in lease fees being paid to the state's School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

Construction on the new site in Tooele County began in April 2005. A group of investors had organized the landfill under the name of Wasatch Regional Solid Waste Management Corporation. In August 2003, Allied Waste became interested in the site. State government officials, including the governor, finally agreed to license the new site and approve the sale if Allied agreed to not accept any out-of-state waste. (Salt Lake Tribune, March 28, 2005) (Construction was completed on the 12-acre cell of Phase 2 in May 2010.) (View photos of the completed Phase 2 cell, taken in May 2010)

The new landfill for Wasatch Regional Solid Waste Management opened in April 2006. (Deseret News, September 1, 2006)

The disposal site in Tooele County is located on Rowley Road, on the western side of Great Salt Lake, about six miles north of Interstate 80. Contrary to rumors, the Allied Waste/Republic Services site is not adjacent to the hazardous waste disposal site at Clive, which is about 30 miles farther west, and two miles south of Interstate 80. The site is located on four adjacent sections (four square miles; 2,000 acres) of School Trust lands. Currently using just one section, the site can be expanded by purchasing additional land for additional disposal cells as needed, with all proceeds going to the state's school trust fund.

Rowley Road is paralleled by Union Pacific's (former Western Pacific) Rowley Branch, which serves the Magnesium Corporation's plant at Rowley. Although there is no direct rail connection to the landfill, access to the national rail network is literally a couple hundred feet away, on flat ground.

During 2013, the Wasatch Regional Landfill accepted 475,595 tons of municipal solid waste, or about 1,303 tons per day, which equates to about 65 truck loads.

Salt Lake County

A transfer station similar to the station located in Ogden, was also located in Salt Lake County, at 3300 South, just west of the Union Pacific (former D&RGW) tracks. It closed at about the same time as the Weber County station, for the same reasons.

The Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Facility included a landfill on 1300 South west of 5600 West (6030 West California Avenue), and a truck-to-rail transfer station on 3300 South, at 500 West. The facilities were owned jointly by Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, and were managed by the joint Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Council.

The Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management transfer station on 3300 South opened in June 1999. Located on the eastern side of the former Vitro uranium tailings site, known as a "Brownfields" site, the Salt Lake Valley facility, provided waste transfer services for the area's approximately 476,000 residents, and was at the south end Union Pacific's former D&RGW Roper rail yard, with immediate access to both the national rail network, and to Interstate 15.

At its peak, because they had their own active landfill, only about one-fourth of Salt Lake Valley's solid waste was loaded onto rail cars and shipped to East Carbon, meaning that lack of dependable service by Union Pacific was not as big of a problem as it was for Weber and Utah counties.

The Salt Lake Valley transfer station on 3300 South incorporated a transfer from trucks to rail, saving costs and time. "Instead of 12 to 15 minutes, after [trucks] go across the scales and out to the tipping face, they go in and out of the transfer station in three minutes," said Romney Stewart, director of solid waste management. As trucks entered the facility, they tipped their loads onto a gathering floor, and a front-end loader then moved the waste directly onto intermodal containers that measured 40-feet by 12 feet by 8-1/2 feet.

As each container was filled, it was covered with a tarp, and lifted by a crane to an adjacent rail car. An empty container was then placed under the floor opening, and loading by front loaders resumed. Loaded rail cars were gathered in an adjoining rail yard, awaiting pick up by Union Pacific.

From there, waste was transported by rail car to the East Carbon landfill, owned by Allied Waste Industries. During late 1999, the Salt Lake Valley facility loaded 20 containers per day, which in turn were loaded on 10 rail cars. About 800 tons per day, or 200,000 tons of waste per year, were funneled through the Salt Lake Valley facility, which had a design capacity of 1,500 tons per day, almost double what it was receiving.

The crane at the transfer station cost the Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Council a total of $1.6 million. It was built especially for the facility, and after the truck-to-rail transfer station was closed in 2007, the purpose-built crane retained only a scrap value of $35,000. (Salt Lake County Auditor, "A Performance Audit of The Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Facility," Report Number 2015-07, November 2015)

At first, the transfer station handled only solid waste from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and South Salt Lake City. The contract with Allied Waste Industries assumed an annual tonnage of 165,000 tons per year of solid waste to be moved from the Salt Lake Valley transfer station, to the East Carbon landfill that Allied Waste had owned since December 1996. During 2005, Allied Waste was only able to transfer 154,000 tons due to rail delivery problems, but moved the needed additional tonnage to other local landfills, at a higher tipping fee per ton.

By 2004, Allied Waste Industries was the second largest waste disposal company in the nation, and the largest in Salt Lake Valley. During 2005, the Solid Waste Management Council anticipated 174,000 tons of solid waste would need to be handled, with the largest portion being transferred to rail at the transfer station and moved to East Carbon.

In April 2006, Allied Waste, owners of the East Carbon landfill, opened a new transfer station to accept its own commercial waste (about 164,000 tons per year), and began hauling the waste to the new Wasatch Regional landfill in Tooele County. The new Allied Waste transfer station is located at 675 Gladiola Street (about 700 South and 3400 West) in Salt Lake City. Like the Wasatch Regional landfill in Tooele County, this site on Gladiola Street is literally a couple hundred feet from access to the national rail network. Allied's use of its own transfer station and its own landfill reduced the revenue of the Salt Lake Valley landfill by removing the tipping fees for the 164,000 tons of commercial waste (about $3.6 million) previously paid by Allied. (Salt Lake County Auditor, "Waste Swapping With Allied Waste," November 3, 2005)

At the same time, in April 2006, Allied stopped using rail cars to move the Salt Lake Valley waste to East Carbon.

On August 31, 2006, the Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Council voted unanimously to cancel the contract with Allied Waste, which moved solid waste from the Salt Lake Valley transfer station to its new landfill in Tooele County as a rate of $23.85 per ton. The Allied contract was replaced by a contract with Western Disposal, to move the waste from the transfer station to the Salt Lake Valley landfill at a rate of $18.50 per ton. (Deseret News, September 1, 2006)

In September 2006, the haulage contract with Allied Waste was cancelled and the containers were moved instead to the Salt Lake Valley landfill on 5600 West in Salt Lake County. The change saved taxpayers dollars in direct operations of hauling solid waste, but ended the per-ton fees that Allied was paying to the state School Trust Fund by sending the Salt Lake Valley municipal solid waste to the Wasatch Regional landfill in Tooele County.

Utah County

North Pointe Solid Waste Special Service District, which covers the northern half of Utah County, gathered solid waste from as far south as Orem and as far west as Eagle Mountain. The truck-to-rail transfer station was located at 200 North and 2000 West in Lindon, adjacent to Union Pacific's former D&RGW mainline.

"The Utah County Solid Waste Special Service District was established in December of 1976 for the purpose of providing garbage and solid waste disposal services for the benefit of its Governmental Units. Due to a legislative mandate in 2002, the name was changed to North Pointe Solid Waste Special Service District. The landfill located in Lindon was opened in the mid 1950s and operated serving the garbage and solid waste needs of the District until March of 1993 when it was officially closed. Garbage was then shipped by rail to ECDC Landfill in Carbon County. In January of 2006 they started shipping the garbage by truck to Wasatch Regional Landfill in Tooele County. The North Pointe Solid Waste Special Service District serves Alpine, American Fork, Cedar Fort, Cedar Hills, Eagle Mountain, Fairfield, Highland, Lehi, Lindon, Orem, Pleasant Grove, Saratoga Springs, Vineyard and unincorporated areas of Utah County." "The North Pointe Solid Waste Special Service District has shipped in excess of 200,000 tons of waste to landfills in Tooele and Utah Counties via the Mr. Bults, Inc. Trucking Company." (American Fork City, City Council Minutes, May 24, 2011)

On August 28, 2001, the Utah County Commission approved of the name change of the Utah County Solid Waste Special Service District, to North Pointe Solid Waste Special Service District. (Deseret News, August 31, 2001)

"North Pointe serves Utah County and the the northern county communities of Orem, Lindon, Vineyard, Pleasant Grove, American Fork, Cedar Hills, Highland, Alpine, Lehi, Saratoga Springs, Eagle Mountain, Cedar Fort, and Fairfield." (North Pointe Solid Waster Special Service District web site)

Like the other counties, North Pointe in Utah County, beginning in March 1993, used Allied Waste Industries to move its municipal solid waste from a newly completed truck-to-rail transfer station, by rail car to the ECDC site in East Carbon. North Pointe, and the Utah County cities that it represented, was one of the first to use the trash by train concept. But North Pointe also suffered from the lack of dependable service by Union Pacific. Like the other counties, the movement by rail car ended in April 2006.

The North Pointe Transfer Station, located at 2000 West 200 South in Lindon, Utah,  opened in March of 1993. It's cost was reported as $1.75 million. With the new EPA rules going into effect in October 1993, Utah County explored the idea of building a new landfill to replace the existing landfill at Lindon, which did not meet the new rules. The ECDC landfill made its case in favor of using rail cars to move Utah County's waste to East Carbon, and Utah County was the first municipal group in Utah to use the new concept. All of the waste collected (about 91,000 tons in 1993) was shipped by rail to the ECDC landfill located in Sunnyside, Utah. On a daily basis, about 75 to 100 trucks dumped garbage from their local routes, transferring the waste into five double-stacked rail cars. (Deseret News, March 22, 1993)

In 2006, we discontinued using rail and started shipping our waste by truck to Wasatch Regional Landfill located just west of Grantsville in Tooele County.  On a daily basis (Monday through Friday), 600+ tons are shipped to the landfill." (North Pointe Solid Waster Special Service District web site; )

For Utah County and North Pointe, more changes came in June 2012 when a closer landfill opened in Utah County. Known as the Intermountain Regional Landfill, the new site is located in Fairfield, about 1-1/3 mile south of State Route 73 as it passes through Fairfield. North Pointe uses the Fairfield landfill mostly for construction and demolition debris. During 2013, the Fairfield landfill accepted 132,942 tons of municipal solid waste. (Daily Herald, April 24, 2012; December 11, 2013)

Allied Waste

Allied Waste Industries was founded on December 18, 1989, with their offices in Houston, when Allied Hauling, Inc., a Texas corporation, was reorganized as a Delaware corporation. The company's business was in the collection, recycling, transfer and disposal of solid waste in regional markets. By 1993 the company had purchased 20 small waste disposal operators in Arizona. They moved their offices from Houston to Scottsdale, Arizona, in October 1993. Other sites were being operated by 550 employees in New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska. By April 1998, Allied Waste was serving 1.4 million residents and businesses in 18 states. (Arizona Republic, October 13, 1993; April 22, 1998)

In March 1999, Allied bought out its larger, and better known rival Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), becoming the second largest waste disposal company in the United States, with Waste Management, Inc., in the top spot. Prior to the sale, Allied Waste was No. 3 in the nation. Allied Waste's purchase of BFI was for a reported $9.4 billion. The sale was approved by the U. S. Department of Justice, with the condition that after the sale, Allied Waste would sell the the medical waste portion, and some of the trash business previous owned by BFI, netting Allied a total of $1.4 billion that was used to pay down the debt of the purchase of BFI. The sale of these assets was completed in April 2000. Some of the assets were sold to Republic Services of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, including four landfills, 11 transfer stations and various commercial hauling operations. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 9, 1999; Arizona Republic, March 14, 1999; May 28, 1999; July 30, 1999; April 5, 2000)

By mid 2004, the top three waste management companies in the United States, Waste Management, Inc. at No. 1; Allied Waste Industries at No. 2; and Republic Services at No. 3, accounted for 44 percent of the nation's solid waste management business. (Arizona Republic, June 6, 2004)

As of June 30, 2006, Allied Waste operated a network of 304 collection companies, 162 transfer stations, 169 active landfills and 57 recycling facilities in 37 states and Puerto Rico. (Allied Waste Industries, SEC Form 8-K, dated August 1, 2006)

In early 2008, 28 percent of the company's business came from residential hauling. The remainder came from commercial hauling of 20-foot and 40-foot open-top containers that roll-on and roll-off, along with operation of land fills and transfer stations. Allied operated 161 land fills, and another 110 that had been permanently closed, along with 53 recycling centers across the nation. Since its founding in 1992, Allied Waste Industries had purchased over 300 local and regional solid waste companies. (Arizona Republic, February 5, 2008; covering the company's history and its business)

On June 13, 2008, Allied Waste Industries and Republic Services announced a possible merger. At the time, Allied was operating in 37 states and Republic was operating in 21 states, mostly in California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. Republic was to pay a reported $6.6 billion for Allied, then would take the Allied name. (Arizona Republic, June 14, 2008)

Allied Waste Industries, Inc. merged with Republic Services of Phoenix, Arizona, in December 2008, and became Allied Waste Services of North America LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Republic Services. As of 2012, Republic was the second largest integrated waste services collection and disposal company in the United States. Republic Services was incorporated in Delaware in 1996. The company served 13 million customers through 348 collection operations and the ownership or operation of 204 transfer stations, 193 solid waste landfills; 76 recycling facilities, and 73 landfill gas and renewable energy projects across 40 states and Puerto Rico. Also in 2012, Allied Waste Services served 21 cities and counties across the State of Utah. Republic Services owned and operated the East Carbon disposal site, which first opened in September 1992. Prior to 2008, the East Carbon site was owned and operated by Allied Waste Industries (AWI).

A plan in 2008 for Waste Management, Inc., to acquire Republic Services was quickly ended in October 2008 due to the collapse of worldwide financial markets. The Allied Waste-Republic Services merger took place instead. (Waste Business Journal, October 2, 2008)

More Information

"A Matter of Waste" -- An article in the City Weekly newspaper, published in June 2007; includes brief background information about waste disposal sites in Utah.