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Home / Articles / Opinion / 5 Spot /  Jordan River Activist Jeff Salt
5 Spot

Jordan River Activist Jeff Salt

By Austen Diamond
 Jordan River
Posted // September 20,2010 - On June 12, 30,000 gallons of crude oil began leaking from pipeline owned by Chevron into Red Butte Creek. Jordan River activist Jeff Salt monitored the spill and containment efforts. He is hosting a “Citizens Respond” event to educate the public about how to improve the waterways of Salt Lake County. The free event will be held Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Main Library.

How is the clean-up progressing?
We can congratulate even Chevron for mobilizing resources to contain and clean up fairly expeditiously. However, we’re at the fine-tuning stage, where we’ll see if every party will be true to their word. It’s a turning point; there isn’t the same commitment, effort or thoroughness as the beginning. Property owners and environmental advocates are concerned that the creek won’t be cleaned sufficiently.

What are the long-term monitoring and restoration plans?
We just had a so-called public meeting of working groups. We were supposed to learn about these next steps to be overseen by a regulatory agency called Unified Command (UC). We were manipulated and corralled into a process that was a complete waste of time and a joke and we learned next to nothing of the plans. The problem now is that no one agrees on the parameters for measuring the stream’s health, partly because there isn’t baseline information for that water system. We won’t know when it’s back to normal. That’s a potential loophole for UC and Chevron.

When will the creek be truly clean?
I’m concerned there’s enough oil product remaining to warrant additional clean-up. We should spend time getting the remaining fraction out. There’s indications from UC that there’ll be no more active cleaning. Chevron is taking cues from them, so everyone’s signing off that it’s as clean as can be, allowing nature to bioremediate.

The pressure is on UC (not Chevron) because they aren’t keeping property owners’ and the public’s interest. We don’t have representation on the UC. There isn’t an effective line of communication, which we’ve struggled with from the beginning. It’s a great opportunity to be inclusive, yet they’re being stogy and stubborn—inherent in bureaucracies. It’s time we allow more concerned citizens in the dialogue.

How can citizens get involved?
Luckily, our laws—Oil Pollution Control Act and Clean Water Act—governing water are written so the public’s interest is protected and respected, allowing citizen involvement and lawsuits. But, lawsuits aren’t effective. We need agencies, required by law to enforce fines and order polluters, to think outside of the box. In the 21st century, we’ve learned communities know more than bureaucracies give credit for. Experts and people should be brought together and given public comment or something better than what the city has organized. That’s where citizens can have an impact. There’s really nothing more effective than an upset, stay-at-home mom. The ones that really count are the enduring landowners. They should be on the front lines but now they’re burnt out.

 
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