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#15 - Government Report Indicts EPA Hazardous Waste Programs For Multiple Problems And Failures, 08-Mar-1987

Ten years ago the U.S. Congress passed the Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act (RCRA), which was intended to provide "cradle to grave"
regulation and oversight of hazardous wastes from U.S. industry. On the
10th anniversary of RCRA, the Congressional Research Service (an arm of
the Congress) has issued a report on the generation, transportation and
management of hazardous waste in the U.S. Entitled HAZARDOUS WASTE FACT
BOOK, the report concludes "there are no current data concerning most
facets of hazardous waste generation and disposal." The report says
that EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has made several
efforts to collect such data but "most remain unpublished because of
problems in methodology that raise significant questions about data
quality."

Based on existing data, the authors conclude that "more waste with
hazardous characteristics is excluded from regulation under RCRA than
is regulated" and they conclude that "most waste is disposed of on the
site where it is generated."

The report says that 770 land disposal facilities (about half of all
such disposal facilities in the U.S.) were in "significant non-
compliance" with RCRA regulations at the beginning of fiscal year 1987
and the number of facilities in non-compliance seems to be growing
rather than shrinking, despite EPA's enforcement efforts.

Editorial comment: This report offers evidence that government isn't
controlling the hazardous waste problem in America. It is apparent that
the government has not measured the size of the problem accurately,
that congress's response to the problem (RCRA) is not working, and that
the EPA's enforcement program is ineffective. The report gives us
renewed conviction that this problem will never be solved until enough
angry citizens demand action--action by government and action by
industry. Citizen involvement is the key.

For a copy of the report (No. 87-56 ENR), contact James McCarthy,
Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
20540.

--Peter Montague

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EPA LOOKS AT ALTERNATIVES FOR CLEANING UP CONTAMINATED TOWN

EPA has proposed seven possible alternatives for dealing with dioxin-
contaminated soil at Times Beach, MO. The town of Times Beach was
contaminated by dioxin in 1972-73 when the Bliss Oil Co. sprayed
contaminated oil onto local roads to suppress dust (and to get rid of
the unwanted dioxin). EPA discovered high levels of dioxin
contamination in the town in 1982 and in early 1983 EPA began buying
the town and moving the residents out. All the residents have now been
moved and EPA is considering what to do with the contaminated property
it owns. Times Beach has about 150,000 cubic yards of soil containing
more than one part per billion (ppb) of dioxin, the level at which EPA
becomes concerned about health.

The seven alternatives include (1) do nothing; (2) fence the
contaminated area to keep people out and begin monitoring to check
whether dioxin is migrating off the site; (3) put one foot of topsoil
over the contaminated area and seed it; then monitor to see if dioxin
is migrating off the site; (4) dig up the soil and move it to an on-
site covered, concrete-reinforced cell underlain by an impermeable
lining to contain the wastes; (5) dig up the soil and truck it to a
landfill somewhere else; (6) build two rotary kiln incinerators on the
site and burn the soil to destroy the dioxin, and (7) build the
incinerators and burn the soil, plus burn an additional 39,000 cubic
yards of soil from three other dioxin-contaminated sites in Missouri.

Costs of these proposals range from $8.8 million for No. 2 to $203
million for No. 7. Reportedly, EPA is leaning toward No. 6.

The state of Missouri has approved the use of a portable incinerator
for detoxifying dioxin-contaminated soils at other sites in the state;
by early 1987, two million pounds of soil had been decontaminated by
incineration in Missouri. For further information about Times Beach:
Steve Wurtz, EPA Region VII, 726 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, MO 66101;
phone (913) 236-2803.

--Peter Montague

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BOOK GIVES OVERVIEW OF NEW WAYS TO DESTROY HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS

There are three standard ways to clean up Superfund hazardous waste
sites: (1) build a wall around the site, which doesn't solve the
problem but passes it on to our grandchildren when the wall begins to
leak; (2) dig up the material and truck it to a landfill somewhere
else, which doesn't solve the problem but passes it into someone else's
back yard; or (3) dig up the wastes and process them to reduce their
toxicity, which offers a real solution to the problem.

Many new technologies have been developed for detoxifying hazardous
wastes. There's a new book on the subject by Harry Freeman: INNOVATIVE
THERMAL PROCESSES FOR TREATING HAZARDOUS WASTE, which describes wet
oxidation pyrolysis, the plasma process, molten salt and molten glass
treatment processes, and chemical transformation. It is available for
$25 from Technomic Publishing Co., 851 New Holland Avenue, Box 3535,
Lancaster, PA 17604; phone (717) 291-5609. Should your town library own
a copy? Or can your community college borrow a copy for you through
inter-library loan?

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Descriptor terms: legislation; us congress; hazardous waste; industry;
congressional research service; studies; hazardous waste fact book;
epa; regulations; compliance; editorials; rcra; waste production
statistics; epa; dioxin; soil contamination; mo; times beach, mo; bliss
oil; landfilling; incineration; remedial action; soil contamination;
statistics; waste treatment technologies;