Oral Histories

William D. McDougald


Bill McDougald

Q: Yeah, there are Hursts in Blanding.

A: Yeah and Blacks in Blanding. But they cleaned up on that. Me and one of the old Atlas engineers, we went down to look at that and see what the heck was going on. He asked me “You want to go down and see the Happy Jack?” And I said, “Yeah.” So we rode down and went through it and it was really something. They showed us how they chased that little old lead that went down under this fornmation into this pothole and that’s what it was.

Q: Well there’s a silver mine down along the way to St. George that’s in the sandstone which is in Leeds, isn’t it?

A: Yeah, some of these guys from Moab went down there and worked in Leeds in the 1980’s.

Q: Well, back to the Council, I’ve heard it said that you were a diplomat and that you were a good person on the City Council.

A: Yeah, well the women always called me sweet, soft-spoken and easy to work with. When I served under Tom Stocks, for example, my pet job was as a mediator in between. And one time I was in a conference up in Salt Lake City and his wife, Gaye, said to him, “ Why can’t you be like Bill McDougald?” And she was a mean turkey too. I mean old Gaye was that type of personality! But Tom got up in the morning and he had to have controversy to go. That was his life. If Ralph Miller said that the sky is nice and blue this morning, Tom says that it’s going to be gray or black, not blue. Those guys had a feud running that stayed forever and I think a bunch of them were Masonic Lodge members.

Q: They kept re-electing him?

A: Oh yeah, but these guys opposed him but Tom got re-elected. He served like 16 years, I think, and now he’s the mayor of LaVerkin. Oh yeah, Tom is a politician and I could tell he didn’t cheat the people. He served the city of Moab well.

Q: You must have enjoyed your work because I’m sure you put in a lot of hours?

A: Oh yeah, we enjoyed it.

Q: Then when did you get into teaching?

A: Well, in 1970. They called me over. Ahead of Kay Hancock. Tom-Tom? Tom Arnold. They had just that little educational center and I started teaching for him.

Q: You mean Tom-Tom was in charge of the CEU?

A: Well, it was just called Educational Center, just sort of an extension deal and Tom was the first. And he was replaced with Kay Hancock and I worked for Kay and I taught these beginning courses which is all I was qualified to teach in Moab. First of all, we didn’t have any lab facilities so I taught Geology 1, which is physical geology, for all those years and I taught some historical. I was allowed to do that. And then we had that #490 course that you might be familiar with that we tooled for Moab, Utah, called Moab Geology for USU.

Q: That must be what I took when we went down in the Rio Algam mine?

A: That’s right and that was tailored. And I’ll telll you how that was started and you’ll be interested in this. Dave May, remember Dave? He used to come and take this class. Well, I was lecturing on mining, mining, mining and he says “Bill, there’s other things out there.” So I said to him, “Dave, how about helping me out. How about you lecturing the Parks?” And I said, “We’ll set this up and we’ll tailor a section for the parks a section for the BLM and a section for mining and it’ll take less time.” So we started tailoring the course and it was through his suggestion that we started enthusiasm in the parks and of course they’re our natural wonders. Today eighty per cent of our resources is parks so it’s important but then, in 1970, we thought this recreation and tourism was about 10%-20% of the economy. We were in that uranium boom in the fifties and sixties and all the way up through the seventies. We were big up through the seventies and we mined up to the eighties and our mill ran up to the mid-eighties. Rio Algam closed in ’88, I remember that. I did work out there too. But Merv Lawton was the general manager of Rio Algam when I did work in Big Indian mining district.

Q: I think that trip you had us take down Rio Algam was one of the last trips?

A: That were allowed? Yeah, we brought samples out of there. We were the last public group that toured Rio. I like to teach college courses. I guess that’s in my blood. My oldest sister was a teacher.

Q: Well, you’ve had several careers. You were a full-time geologist and a full-time council man and a full-time educator. I guess they overlapped?

A: Well,I had to be highly qualified in sampling, you know, because of my work around the mills. That’s what I was mainly concerned about, the sample that these guys got from their shipments. I was their shipping representative.

Q: I don’t know whether you want to give any thoghts about the Atlas tailings?

A: Well, I kept reading the reports and I was concerned about the quantity of water seepage through the tails into the river. And I held back and I just don’t get into those fights anymore but if they could take the water from around the tailing pond and cap it, it would work fine. In other words, take the water out that’s going in and going back to the river. In other words, you have to dry up your tailing pond and put a cap over it and all that. They can do it providing that there isn’t too many gallons going into the river. Well gee, when Atlas did their testing I used to talk to these guys. They had to go down the river and check the river and everything when they were there and they would check for this contamination we’re talking about and the time they sampled down at Texas Gulf there was such a large volume of water running through the river through Moab which is 12,000 cfs I think it is minimum and it was diluted down to where there was a trace. And if the quantity that you’d leach out of the tails exceeds that where it doesn’t dilute or if the water itself was reduced to a certain low level I suppose you got a real problem. But from the tests and the gallonages I saw it wasn’t a problem. Now there will be a certain amount of ammonia that will leach out that will affect fish and things in the near vicinity. But the thing is, if they get the water out of the tails and instead of running it through the tails and into the river, if you can do that by capping and proper surface run-off detouring around the pile, capping would work at 1/3 the cost.

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