Utah ranks fourth in nation for amount of toxic chemicals released into environment

Jul 9, 2024, 5:00 AM | Updated: 11:01 am

The Kennecott Copper Mine near Herriman is pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. A Utah group says t...

The Kennecott Copper Mine near Herriman is pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. A Utah group says the mine is responsible for toxic chemicals released into the environment. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah ranks fourth in the nation for releasing toxic chemicals into the environment, according to an EPA report. 

The report, published in March 2024, states that Utah released 181.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2022. 

Dr. Brian Moench with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment says Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation is responsible for the high ranking.

He estimates Kennecott releases 6,000 of lead and other toxins every year into the environment. 

“Over 20 years, that’s 120,000 pounds of lead admitted into the environment,” Moench said.

“Because these heavy metals do not degrade or dissolve… The levels slowly start to accumulate.” 

Kennecott and its owner Rio Tinto, for its part, is applying dust suppressants, capturing sulfur during the smelting process, cleaning up contaminated soils and making their trucks more efficient. 

But Dr. Moench says the heavy metals can cause ailments like heart attacks, cancers and birth defects.

“The heavy metals are very toxic to human health. Most of them are neuro-toxins, some of them are carcinogens.” 

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Utah ranks fourth in nation for amount of toxic chemicals released into environment