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CHAPTER 6 THE GLOBAL DUMPING GROUND. Environmental degradation, hazardous waste and chemical pollution are by- products of our industrial world Cutter:

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Presentation on theme: "CHAPTER 6 THE GLOBAL DUMPING GROUND. Environmental degradation, hazardous waste and chemical pollution are by- products of our industrial world Cutter:"— Presentation transcript:


2 Environmental degradation, hazardous waste and chemical pollution are by- products of our industrial world Cutter: though the degree of contamination varies from place- to-place, the source- the improper disposal of wastes from industrial processes and/or consumer products containing hazardous substances- is the same

3 - Many of these places have become household names - Abandoned dump sites are the legacy of past industrial activities and their indiscriminate dumping practices --- further, the creation of chemical time bombs is another dumping legacy

4 Chemical Time Bomb The chemical build-up in soils and sediments without adverse impacts until a threshold level is reached or the ecosystem is somehow disturbed thereby releasing the chemical contamination

5 In the context of the chemical time bomb, we have the EPA designation of the Superfund site [a CERCLA] creation Comprehensive Environmental Response, Comprehension and Liability Act (CERCLA) CERCLA and companion legislation Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) are both designed to clean up hazardous waste sites (in general, CERCLA gets the worst ones)

6 Superfund Sites - Spatial breakdown Urban 18.4%; Suburban 39.3%; Rural 42.0% - More than $200 billion has been spent on Superfund projects - EPA expects to add 1,200 sites/yr … takes an average of 11 yrs from initial site study to “construction complete” status … est. 72 million Americans reside within 4 miles of a Superfund site – about 4.4 million live within 1 mile

7 Superfund Sites, cont Top 10 Superfund hazardous substances: lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, benzene, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls, chloroform, benzo(a)pyrene, trichloroethylene States with the most Superfund Sites NJ; PA; CA; NY; MI; FL; WA; MN; WI; IL

8 Superfund Sites, cont Ten Worst Toxic Dumps 1. Big River Tailings, Desloge, MO 2. Lipari Landfill, Lipari, NJ 3. McCormick & Baxter Creosoting Co, Stockton, CA 4. Tybouts Corner Landfill, New Castle, DE 5. Helen Kramer Landfill, Manuta Township, NJ

9 Superfund Sites, cont Ten Worst Toxic Dumps, cont 6. Industri-plex, Woodburn, MA 7. Price Landfill, Pleasantville, NJ 8. Pearl Harbor Naval Complex, Honolulu, HI 9. Pollution Abatement Services, Oswego, NY 10. Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Benton Co, WA

10 Aside: Remember Today we think of “toxic wastes” as solid and chemical materials. Poisonous as these materials are, wastes produced by living bacteria and viruses are ounce- for-ounce far more poisonous (ex: bubonic plague; 542 to 594 A.D.; bacterial waste passed from rats to fleas to humans; death within hours of contact; killed one out of every three humans in Europe; history will repeat itself in 14 th C ]

11 So we must remember that there are two types of toxic waste (1) toxic waste produced by disease- causing-organisms [cholera; bubonic plague; syphilis] (2) toxic waste from human activities [factory emissions; liquid effluence; solid waste]

12 Where once we worried about populations being decimated by plague, small pox, etc., today we have to worry about subtle long-range effects of chemicals and waste [sometimes from stuff we have never heard of]

13 - Cutter raises the generational (temporal) externality of solid waste activities [our parents and grandparents left for us / we’ll leave more for our children] - Disposal of toxic waste presents spatial inequalities, too [both regionally and racially] - The toxic waste “trade” has become big business and big politics * Well presented in “Southern Exposure”, Sierra

14 Affluence Breeds Effluence - No one really knows how much hazardous waste is generated worldwide annually - We have no idea where is goes – land?; air?; water?; organisms?; “stays in-house”?; “goes international”?; etc. - We do know that affluent countries – especially the U.S. - lead in toxic waste production

15 Affluence Breeds Effluence, cont Interesting: the two problems that Cutter mentions in arriving at global estimates of hazardous waste: (1) definition of “hazardous waste” (2) problem of accurate record keeping [where produced / how much produced / where consumed]

16 Affluence Breeds Effluence, cont What is Hazardous Waste? Hazardous waste is solid waste that has physical, chemical, or biological characteristics that cause / contribute to threats to human health (leading to serious illness or death) or adversely affect the environment [this is the by-product----disposal end of the definition of hazard, I gave you back in your opening lectures]

17 Affluence Breeds Effluence, cont What is Hazardous Waste?, cont - Unfortunately, not all substances we might consider hazardous are regulated - EPA classifies toxic waste according to four characteristics [we introduced] (1) ignitability(2) corrosiveness (3) reactivity(4) toxicity (5) reactive waste – special case

18 Affluence Breeds Effluence, cont Historically, we have not done a good job in regulation of potentially hazardous chemical compounds (1) no clear definition of hazardous or toxic chemicals (2) regulations are often written on a chemical-by-chemical basis or by chemical group basis (3) lists of regulated chemicals change as greater amounts of health / environmental impact data is assembled

19 Affluence Breeds Effluence, cont This situation is not unique to the U.S. (1) EC provides a definition of hazardous waste… states put their own interpretation to it (2) text says this is compounded by a lack of international agreement on what is hazardous waste… making trans-boundary shipments difficult to monitor Text: Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989) comes closest to universal definition (Table 6.3, p. 117)

20 Redressing the Toxic Past - Historically, we have done a variation of “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” as our waste disposal doctrine ex: “Valley of the Drums”, KY lost drums at Oak Ridge Love Canal Buffalo and Niagara Rivers Deerfield, OH

21 This dumping legacy hit the public scene in the 1970s, culminating in a number of extended Congressional hearings and legislative actions Since their passage, these legislative actions have met consistent conflict from the primary polluting agents they were intended to control

22 (1) commercial/industrial polluters --- we have talked about how processing and fabrication are resource consuming (both natural and manufactured) and waste producing --- in addition to p&f we have the hazardous waste management facilities and the transportation industry --- ironically, the operating patterns of industry made it possible to collect and track hazardous waste data

23 (1) commercial/industrial polluters, cont - U.S. is the world’s largest producer of hazardous waste … not equitably distributed spatially … definite concentration mix between old and new chemical manufacturing regions / large and small operations … South does not fare well in number of sites and at-risk populations

24 (2) The military --- Cutter classes the U.S. military as the largest generator of toxic waste in the world … both solid and liquid … both DoD (of which the South and the West lead in sites) and the weapons production complex (primarily 15 sites)

25 (2) The military, cont --- tracking military hazardous waste production and discard has until recently been complicated by the facts that installations have largely been ignored, and the ability they had to claim security classification [base realignment and closure; new EPA regs have altered this]

26 TSCA, RCRA and Superfund - First important U.S. legislation was the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 1976 [toxic substance under Federal statute is a chemical or mixture that may represent an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment] --- regulates chemicals to reduce public health and environmental exposure --- requires industry to provide information on toxicity and environmental behavior of planned chemical products --- EPA reviews and if necessary regulates and restricts

27 TSCA, RCRA and Superfund, cont - TSCA weaknesses: (1) TSCA controls manufacture and distribution of new toxic chemicals, it has no authority over materials manufactured prior to 1976 (2) difficult to adjust regulations to new developments in regulation or to findings of additional toxicity

28 TSCA, RCRA and Superfund, cont 1976 Congress passed another important piece of regulatory legislation, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) --- previously noted, “cradle-to-grave” management of hazardous materials --- identification; reporting; regulation; certification and monitoring Can compel hazardous waste site owner to clean up a location if it poses a significant health risk

29 TSCA, RCRA and Superfund, cont - RCRA was primarily designed to regulate five types of disposal activities: (1) hazardous waste (2) solid waste (3) underground storage tanks (4) oil waste (5) medical waste

30 TSCA, RCRA and Superfund, cont - RCRA regulates both newly-generated solid waste that are hazardous (the cradle-to-grave provision), and under certain conditions, the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites - Along with CERCLA, RCRA is designed to clean up abandoned hazardous sites, but is limited to Hazardous Waste Index (HWI) National Priorities List sites rating < 28.5

31 TSCA, RCRA and Superfund, cont - RCRA delegates authority to states to manage and regulate municipal solid waste disposal facilities (“sanitary landfills”) and programs (“solid waste disposal programs”)

32 TSCA, RCRA and Superfund, cont - For hazardous waste clean up, Congress legislated the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) – “Superfund” - Passed in 1980 to address what was expected to be a serious, but limited, problem - CERCLA regulates National Priorities List sites with a HWI>28.5

33 - Under Superfund, the EPA was to determine the 400 worst hazardous sites for Superfund attention – the National Priorities List (NPL) --- Cutter: potential Superfund sites now number between 130,000 to 425,000 (sites, storage tanks, injection wells, federal facilities) --- Typical NPL sites are old manufacturing operations and old municipal landfills

34 National Priorities List (NPL) EPA’s list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites identified for possible long-term remedial action under Superfund. The list is based primarily on the score a site receives from the Hazard Ranking System. EPA is required to update the NPL at least once a year. A site must be on the NPL to receive money from the Trust Fund for remedial action.

35 - To determine the NPL, the EPA created a national inventory of sites - the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Information System (CERCLIS) - where hazardous materials were stored, treated, disposed or released - … CERCLIS has grown significantly since inception in 1980

36 Interesting - CERCLA is designed to help determine how clean a site should be … CERCLA follows a Record of Decision (ROD), a document describing the remedy chosen for a particular hazardous waste site … legally applicable Federal, and any more stringent state/local regulations must the followed in cleanup (recurring concern at Ft. Campbell)

37 Record of Decision (ROD) A public document that explains which clean up alternative(s) will be used at National Priorities List sites where, under CELCLA, Trust Funds pay for the cleanup

38 Trust Fund A fund set up under CERCLA to help pay for cleanup of hazardous waste sites and for legal action to force those responsible to clean the cites

39 Interesting, cont - CERCLA recognizes response costs incurred by persons other than the Federal govt, and provides a format – cause of action – for private parties to recover response costs

40 Interesting, cont - Several substances were specifically excluded from CERCLA’s definition of hazardous substances, even though their release may cause environmental harm - Under CERCLA, hazardous substances do not include: petroleum, crude oil, natural gas in any form or any mixture containing natural and synthetic gas [Congress provides no reason why these substances are excluded] [courts have given wide latitude to defining substances into these categories)

41 Success? - Most legislators believed that cleaning up a site would be relatively inexpensive and involve moving a few containers or scraping a few inched of soil , President Clinton “… Superfund has been a disaster” - Cutter: “Thus far the Superfund program has been better at identifying and listing sites, rather than cleaning them up”

42 Success? - Human exposure to releases from hazardous waste sites has been documented at about 40% of Superfund sites: exposure could occur at another 40% - About 2% of Superfund sites present a imminent and urgent public-health hazard - Most common contaminants are organic chemicals, solvents and metals - Some 25,000 different parties have been named in Superfund lawsuits

43 Success? A recurrent problem of semantics between “waste” and “feedstock” … what is waste (hazardous waste) from one operation or form of processing and fabrication may be the required feedstock for another industry [issue has come up both with the EPA and the Basel Convention]


45 Transboundary trade, cont … in no way is the Karin B. incident unique ex: 1987, again, Italy-to-Nigeria, several thousand tons of radioactive waste was shipped as “substances related to the building trade”, and stored in drums in a Koko, Nigeria backyard until they started leaking Forced to take the drums back to Italy, workers cleaning up suffered chemical burns and partial paralysis; 500 m radius around the dump site is considered unsafe [Harvard International Review, 2002] … the death penalty is applied in Nigeria now for importing hazardous waste

46 Transboundary trade, cont Cutter writes that her selected citations of Table 6.9 are illustrative of the international nature of the hazardous waste trade … at least the trade we are legally aware of Disposal of hazardous waste is a major issue large waste-generators (no longer can just bury it and forget it) … as we passed NMBY regulation, we still had to get rid of it

47 Waste brokers I have problems with Cutter’s first statement in this section: “The hazardous-waste business is populated with sleazy brokers, intermediaries, obliging shipping firms, and nefarious ghost companies No matter what your personal opinion might be on the hazards materials trade, it is an open, national and international, big money activity ex: 1988, Guinea-Bisseau was offered $600 mill. (4x its GNP) to accept 15 mill tons of US toxic waste over 5 yrs

48 Waste brokers, cont It cannot exist without the tacit or explicit support of main stream industry and legitimate governments It serves a function that, if unpleasant, is necessary … unless we radically alter the global economy, especially in the area of chemical industries, it is going to be produced

49 Waste brokers, cont Cutter than discusses the plight of LDCs in this global trade: The waste broker, providing a serve to industry (who must be equally culpable), contracts with an LDC to take the waste in exchange for foreign currency (at substantial savings over domestic cost) and maybe promises of development aid, or cheaper infrastructure, equipment or parts. Using nefarious means in shipping / packaging, the broker moves the waste and the LDC suffers

50 Aside The thing that I think bothers me the most about Cutter’s Waste brokers section is that for most of it, you can replace “poor country” or “LDC” with “poor Southern state” or “poor Southern county”, and get a summary of the behavior of the hazardous waste industry in the U.S. (and state and local government) over the past half-century Viewed economically, in 1988, cost per ton to transport / dump waste in LDC was between $2.50-$50, compared to $100-$2,000… and incineration could run $10,000

51 Interesting “Within the US waste is viewed as ant other commodity and restrictions in interstate movements are prohibited. Confirmed by the Supreme Court time and time again, states cannot restrict or ban inflows of either solid or hazardous wastes”. (p. 140)

52 International routes In addition to domestic hazardous waste movement, the US is also an international exporter … Canada has historically been the destination of choice … through the decade of the 1990s we exported to 14 countries … Eastern Europe was the location of choice for EC states (with fall of communism, a continent wide health and environmental legacy)

53 Basel Convention Formally the Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal - UN initiated conference 3/89 (binding 1992) in response to calls to restrict or abolish transboundary trade in hazardous wastes … signed by 54 states, including the US, eventually 148 states sign (2001) … restricts and controls trade – does not ban it [attempted 1995 – only 26 of needed 62 supported] … African states did not sign. Calling for an outright ban on trade (see map of trade banning states, p. 143)

54 Basel Convention, cont Provisions of Basel Convention: (1) prohibits export of non-hazardous solid waste, hazardous waste ash from solid-waste incinerators, and infectious waste from disposal unless the receiving state guarantees the waste will be managed in an environmentally sound manner --- why onus on the receiving state and not the industrial state producing? … signor confusion over what constituted “hazardous”

55 Basel Convention, cont (2) Prohibits all waste shipments to Antarctica --- sensible, a world heritage site --- possession of no state --- what if pressure to mine continent’s coal grows?

56 Basel Convention, cont (3) Exporting states must notify importing states in advance of any waste shipments. Exporting states must also receive written consent from officials in the importing state before the wastes can be moved … notification verbally or written … applies to movement for final disposal or for recycling / reuse

57 Basel Convention, cont - “final disposal” (waste) and “recycling/reuse” (product) was important and Basel made no distinction: % sent to LDCs was for product % “ “ “ “ “ “ % “ “ “ “ “ “ This had to be revisited… and recycling is polluting LDCs anyway

58 Basel Convention, cont (4) Exporting states have the responsibility to ban shipments to consenting importing states if the exporting state has reason to believe that the wastes will not be managed in a safe manner … but why would they? … as it violates pt. 1, they should never have made the contract anyway

59 Basel Convention, cont (5) Prohibits all shipments from a state that has signed the treaty to one that has not … hence the importance of the states that did not sign it (p. 143)

60 Basel Convention, cont (6) The export state assumes full responsibility for proper removal and disposal of wastes shipped illegally if the waste broker cannot be identified, The convention does not require exporting states to assume liability for any associated clean-up from environmental contamination resulting from disposal --- how can the broker not be known as he has a contract with the producer (industry) and the receiver (importing state)?

61 Basel Convention, cont Interesting Basel does present some possible complications: --- waste is defined according to degree of hazard with value as a secondary raw material --- times change ability to measure hazard (my contract can ship today – but not tomorrow?) --- what do you do about wastes having economic value (i.e: metals like copper, zinc, lead)

62 Basel Convention, cont Interesting --- what about waste that is an important input ex: … lead from batteries supplying industry in India and Philippines … “ship-breaking” Indian ships in Pakistan … reprocessing waste mercury in South Africa

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