Category: Hazardous waste

Supreme Court considers whether US should pay for Guam hazardous waste cleanup

Read the full story at The Hill.

The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments about whether the U.S. should pay Guam for hazardous waste cleanup over dumping of waste from the Navy at the territory’s Ordot Dump. 

Disposing of E-Cigarette Waste: FAQ for Schools and Others

Download the document.

This publication provides a brief summary of considerations for schools, airports, courts, and other institutions subject to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) when dealing with how to handle and dispose of mounting piles of e-cigarette hazardous waste.

Site stabilized, EPA hands off ‘green ooze’ cleanup to state environmental agency

Read the full story in the Detroit News.

A representative for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it had completed its emergency response to groundwater contamination at the former Electro-Plating Services, having spent $3.1 million, and will pass oversight on to state officials.

“Our goal was to stabilize the site … and return the site to EGLE for long-term remediation,” said Tricia Edwards of the EPA during an online update, referring to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She discussed over a year’s work at a “very complicated site.” 

Edwards said weekly monitoring for hazardous chemicals at the Madison Height site in recent months showed “no imminent threat to humans or the environment.”

How Harsco reimagined its Clean Earth division mid-pandemic as a national hazardous waste player

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

President David Stanton discusses building a new business following the acquisition of assets from Stericycle, pandemic effects on different customers and the big potential around managing PFAS waste.

Developer had big plans for land polluted by the steel industry on Chicago’s Southeast Side. Instead, he flipped the property for millions, and now taxpayers likely will pay for the cleanup.

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

During the last years of Chicago’s once-mighty steel industry, a clout-heavy developer seized an opportunity to make millions while offering the city’s beleaguered Southeast Side a glimmer of hope.

Donald Schroud vowed to create hundreds of jobs by building an industrial park and sports complex on a swath of heavily polluted land he bought in 1994 from one of the last steel companies operating along the Calumet River.

For just $50,000, the deal gave Schroud control of a corner of the city nearly nine times larger than Millennium Park.

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration embraced the developer’s plans. But another City Hall power broker helped doom the ambitious project from the start.

Now-indicted Ald. Edward Burke shepherded legislation creating a special taxing district intended to provide enough money to clean up Schroud’s land, build roads and install sewers, city records show. Then, working in his private capacity as Schroud’s tax attorney, Burke won an appeal that slashed the land’s value by 75%, depriving the city of millions slated to make the site attractive to new businesses.

A Tribune investigation found Schroud cashed in six years later by flipping half of the property to another developer for $4.2 million — a whopping 84 times more than what he paid for the entire site. He left behind some of the most toxic land in the city, setting back for decades the renewal of neighborhoods devastated by layoffs and lost retirement benefits when steel companies abandoned Chicago…

Last year, the biggest parcel Schroud still owns became the city’s newest Superfund site, a federal designation reserved for the nation’s most contaminated properties. Taxpayers likely will be left with the tab for a long and costly cleanup.

He donated other tracts to a youth baseball organization in the Hegewisch neighborhood. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently discovered that a field the Babe Ruth League built at 126th Place and Carondolet Avenue is contaminated with high levels of toxic manganese. (Schroud did not previously own a nearby ball field cleaned up during the summer by the EPA, according to property records.)

L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground.

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

Shipping logs show that every month in the years after World War II, thousands of barrels of acid sludge laced with this synthetic chemical were boated out to a site near Catalina and dumped into the deep ocean — so vast that, according to common wisdom at the time, it would dilute even the most dangerous poisons.

Regulators reported in the 1980s that the men in charge of getting rid of the DDT waste sometimes took shortcuts and just dumped it closer to shore. And when the barrels were too buoyant to sink on their own, one report said, the crews simply punctured them.

The ocean buried the evidence for generations, but modern technology can take scientists to new depths. In 2011 and 2013, Valentine and his research team were able to identify about 60 barrels and collect a few samples during brief forays at the end of other research missions.

EPA Develops National Picture of Underground Storage Tank Facilities and Leaking Underground Storage Tank Sites

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

EPA researchers, in collaboration with the Office of Underground Storage Tanks and the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials began collecting publicly available information in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. EPA scientists Alex Hall and Fran Kremer used the data to develop the UST Finder, a  web mapping tool and database that provides users with the first-ever comprehensive national picture of the physical attributes and locations of active and closed USTs, UST facilities, and LUST sites. Providing locations of LUST/UST facilities for many of the states that didn’t have geolocations was also a major contribution in this effort.  

Groups urge protection from ‘environmental racism’ in hazardous waste placement

Read the full story in the Detroit News.

Environmental groups are calling on state regulators to adopt policies to put an end to Michigan’s “long history of discrimination” over the placement of hazardous waste sites in poor communities of color.

The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, in partnership with a Detroit law firm, has filed a civil rights complaint with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, on behalf of activist groups and residents in Detroit and Hamtramck, urging the department to “protect us from environmental racism,” said Michelle Martinez, director of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition.

Beirut explosion: the disaster was exceptional but events leading up to it were not – researchers

by Scott Edwards (University of Bristol) and Christian Bueger (University of Copenhagen)

At the time of writing at least 100 people have lost their lives and a further 4,000 have been wounded following an explosion in the Port of Beirut. While the actual cause remains uncertain, the tragedy calls to attention the tremendous consequences of a lack of port security.

The explosion, on August 4, at around 6pm local time, appears to have been fuelled by 2,750 tons of the highly reactive chemical ammonium nitrate. The chemical had been the cargo on a ship, the the MV Rhosus, which entered the port at Beirut in 2013 due to a lack of seaworthiness and was prohibited from sailing. After the ship’s owner abandoned the vessel soon afterwards, the ammonium nitrate remained in a storage facility in Beirut’s port.

While the disaster itself was exceptional, the events leading up to it were not. Hazardous material is shipped across the world’s oceans on a daily basis. It is often mishandled or illegally traded. Abandoned containers of hazardous goods are found regularly in ports.

While maritime security tends to focus on preventing high-profile events such as piracy, terrorism or cyber-attacks, all too often it is daily mishandling that makes disasters possible. Part of preventing disasters such as what has happened in Beirut will mean strengthening port management and addressing crimes such as smuggling and corruption.

Abandoned ships

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has recorded 97 cases of abandoned ships and crews since 2017. Ships are abandoned by their owners if a vessel is no longer lucrative to maintain, or perhaps if the ship has been stopped by authorities and fined. While the situation of the seafarers aboard these ships is often tragic, as they may receive little pay or even food for months, what happens to the load of the vessels is often unclear.

And the IMO number only reflects the cases of ships – we know little about how many containers stand abandoned in ports around the world.

A UN report indicates that this number may be large. Containers often lie abandoned within ports, sometimes even by design, fuelled by criminal activities such as waste smuggling and corruption. Despite some efforts to counter this, the issue remains widespread and there are continued obstacles to tackling it.

International waste trade

Shipping companies often sail to Asia with empty containers, as much of the flow of trade is from Asia to Europe. As a result, they are willing to take low-value and high-volume bookings on the initial leg.

This has facilitated a burgeoning waste trade and with it a smuggling sector, where illegal forms of waste such as unrecyclable plastics are shipped from western countries to countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Thousands of these containers lie abandoned once they reach the port.

Aerial view of ship loaded with shipping containers in ocean
A trade in waste flows from Europe to Asia. Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock

Much of the waste is less dangerous than the ammonium nitrate that fuelled the Beirut explosion, but it can still have dreadful effects. Plastics, for example, can cause hazards if not properly disposed of. Much of it ends up in the ocean, fuelling the ocean plastic crisis.

In 2019, Sri Lankan authorities discovered more than 100 abandoned containers in the port of Colombo. They contained clinical waste, potentially including human remains, and were leaking fluids. The risk that the containers had contaminated the ground and surface water in the two years they had lay in port unnoticed fuelled public health concerns. Sri Lanka has been able to investigate this problem – but it is likely that, in many cases, abandonment goes undiscovered.

Prevention

The abandonment of dangerous containers in ports is not a new problem. Since the 2000s there have been significant efforts to increase security levels in ports through surveillance, training and safety protocols. In light of the continuing abandonment problem, we know that these measures – and their implementation – are insufficient.

First, we have to start seeing the smuggling of waste and the abandoning of ships and containers as major offences. They should be seen as important parts of the blue crime and maritime security agenda. Appropriate legislation is needed to criminalise them. An international database for such crimes is required, as is transnational cooperation to address them.

Second, corruption in ports plays a key part in ensuring that abandonment goes unnoticed. It needs to be addressed with a concerted international effort.

Finally, increased efforts in building the capacity of ports to deal with hazardous waste, to detect smuggling and to deal with abandonment cases are needed. In particular, this will be necessary for ports which have limited resources and are common destinations for abandoned containers, such as ports in Asia and Africa.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Maritime Organization and the European Union already conduct port security capacity building work, in particular in Africa. More of this kind of work is needed.

Beirut has shown us the kind of impact a port disaster can have on a city and its inhabitants. Lessons must be learned to make sure a tragedy like this does not happen again.

Scott Edwards, Research Associate, University of Bristol and Christian Bueger, Professor of International Relations, University of Copenhagen

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Hundreds of Toxic Superfund Sites Imperiled by Sea-Level Rise, Study Warns

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, faulting Trump for ignoring climate change, says flooding there could wash deadly chemicals into nearby communities.

Associated publication: A Toxic Relationship: Extreme Coastal Flooding and Superfund Sites

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