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Rocky Mountain Power Fined For Summer Spill

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The Price River, which runs below the now-defunct Carbon Power plant, was polluted when stormwater tore into the coal ash waste system last summer. Rocky Mountain Power has agreed to pay the state penalties and reimbursements totalling $15,385.

Utah environmental regulators are proposing to penalize Rocky Mountain Power for spilling coal ash into the Price River last summer.

Last August Rocky Mountain Power was dismantling its old Carbon power plant near Helper when a thunderstorm came on and swamped the coal ash waste system.

“It was just a very brief but violent flood,” says Paul Murphy, the power company’s spokesman.

“We had a pond to gather it,” he explains. “We had different culverts to divert the water to different areas, and one of the holes that the water was supposed to go through got plugged up.”

The coal ash waste system was built to required standards, says Murphy, but the storm was far bigger than state regulators or the company expected. Tons of pollutants washed into the river, including a total of 50 pounds of lead and arsenic.

“From the very beginning, Rocky Mountain Power did everything it could to take care of the situation, to clean it up, and we’re glad that everything now has been resolved.”

Murphy says there is no evidence that plants, animals or people were harmed by the spill.

Yet, even accidental pollution is subject to fines under state law. So, the Utah Division of Water Quality has assessed a $13,000 fine against the company plus administrative costs of $2,385.

Murphy says the company has already agreed to pay the penalty.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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