Trash forces families to leave homes


    By Seth Blaylock

    The Utah County Board of Health handed down good news on Jan. 8 to residents of Spanish Fork Ranch. The 11 families living on a capped landfill will be moved to methane- and garbage-less land within six months.

    However, no one is sure about who will foot the moving bill.

    After almost two hours of discussion about the troubled housing development and the waste simmering beneath its ground, the Board voted unanimously to require the removal of all remaining houses on the land.

    Board members agreed that the dangers of methane gas and other problems represent enough of an immediate health risk to call for an evacuation.

    The Board also recommended recapping the landfill and will require Spanish Fork City to investigate the dangers of methane gas building up under manholes in the area.

    But there is a problem. No one knows who is going to pay for all of the Board”s recommendations.

    The owner and developer of the land, Ron Jones, ran out of money long ago. And as Attorney David Boyer told the Board, the families he represents “don”t have money to move.”

    “We can”t help you with the money to move,” said Gayle Judd, chair of the Health Board.

    Judd said that while the Board sympathizes with the residents” situation, county health decisions cannot be based on financial reasons.

    “A lot of these things will have to be decided in a court of law, not here,” she said.

    Boyer and his associate Attorney Randy Spencer seemed to agree.

    Spencer said the residents do have places to look for the money to move their houses.

    In the meeting he pointed out that a $96,000 bond deposited to Spanish Fork by the developer could be released to the residents.

    Spencer said he was also planning to approach the Environmental Protection Agency in behalf of the residents for help.

    To Erin Dodge, getting out of Spanish Fork Ranch is a necessity.

    Dodge, 38, a senior majoring in history, addressed the Board about her fears of methane contamination.

    “I don”t drink the water, I don”t turn on the heater. … We”re afraid our house is going to blow up,” she said.

    Dodge said she and her mother never knew their house was built on a landfill before they moved in.

    Soon enough residents began finding old newspapers, underwear, mattresses and other things under their feet as the landfill cap failed.

    “We must have found five or six syringes,” she said.

    Dodge said she agreed with the Boards decision to evacuate the land.

    “It”s not going to be safe — now or ever,” she said.

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