Andrews County in west Texas is home to a newly-licensed low level radioactive waste dump. Events taking place in Tooele County, Utah, may be a glimpse at what the future could hold for Texans. As the Salt Lake Tribune reported today:
A multimillion-dollar budget shortfall in Tooele County has prompted commissioners to slash budgets and departments, including the hazardous materials division within the sheriff’s office, tasked with overseeing the response to a worst-case scenario.
While budget woes aren’t unique to Tooele County, what is unique is that Tooele is host to a radioactive waste landfill, a magnesium plant and an interstate highway on which tons of hazardous materials travel daily.
The biggest impact of the budget cuts could be on emergency response training:
“I think it’s alarming,” said Christopher Thomas, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah), an environmental advocacy group. “There are so many toxic and hazardous activities that happen out there that I think it’s critical that you have trained professionals who can respond quickly.”
If response time or training is diminished because of budget cuts, that could affect more than just Tooele County, Thomas said. “It’s not just a Tooele County issue, it’s a statewide issue.”
The effect of similar budget cuts could be less of a problem for Texas, since, as of now, we really don’t have any emergency response training going on, but that’s not really a comforting thought….