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Chapter IV-Inadequate Organizational Emphasis on Hazardous Wastes:
Years of inadequate handling and disposal of hazardous chemical wastes have pushed hazardous waste management to the forefront of environmental protection concerns facing this nation over the last decade. To date, government regulation of hazardous waste, from generators to disposers, has been virtually non-existent.
Toxic and other organic and inorganic chemical wastes are only beginning to plague this country. Such wastes have been shown to enter the food chain and the nation's most abundant supply of drinking water, the groundwater, because wastes improperly disposed of in landfills or other surface impoundments are leaching offsite and are threatening the environment and public health.
A visible and poignant example of the potential consequences of the failure of government to adequately regulate disposal of hazardous waste is provided by Love Canal, where 239 families were forced to evacuate their homes when chemical wastes disposed of by the Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corporation began seeping into their yards and basements.
Perhaps the most appalling fact of all this: had the proper government regulation been in force at the time, [1950s] it would have cost Hooker Chemical a maximum of $4 million-that's in current 1979 dollars-to fund, construct and seal a secure, hazardous waste facility. Instead, the public has already spent $23 million-and the ultimate cost to former Love Canal residents and to the company is beyond credible calculation.
DOUGLAS M. COSTLE,
FEBRUARY 7, 1979.
We are only beginning to discover the dimensions of the hazardous waste disposal problem. A contract study performed for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 sites in the United States could contain some degree of hazardous waste. Of these, the study indicates, 1,200 to 2,000 may pose an "imminent hazard" to public health and the environment. Of over 100 billion pounds of hazardous waste generated annually, the EPA maintains as much as 90 percent are being disposed of in non-secure ponds, landfills and lagoons, and that 10 percent is being incinerated without proper controls. Further, 80 percent of hazardous waste is disposed of on-site (on company property).
The chemical industry is the largest producer of hazardous waste, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the estimated 34.5 million metric tons of hazardous waste produced by 17 industries EPA studied in 1977.
Costs to totally alleviate the environmental and public health threat posed by current hazardous waste disposal sites are estimated to be in the range of 26.2 to 44.1 billion dollars. To provide emergency response and site cleanup for the so-called "ticking time bombs," such as Love Canal, alone would cost from 3.6 to 6.1 billion dollars.
To place these costs in proper perspective, the cost to industry to comply with the proposed regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA (enacted in 1976 to provide adequate regulation of solid and hazardous wastes) will be in the neighborhood of $750 to $900 million per year.
Cases other than Love Čanal which demonstrated to this Subcommittee the widespread nature of the hazardous waste problem included:
(1) Jacksonville, Arkansas, where wastes from the manufacture of 2,4,5-T, a principle component of the defoliant Agent Orange have been disposed of by the Vertac Corporation on company property, and have resulted in the highest level of TCDD (dioxin) ever recorded in this country.
(2) Montague, Michigan, where the on-site disposal by Hooker Chemical of chemical wastes in thousands of 55-gallon drums resulted in the leaching of organic contaminants into groundwater supplies and into a nearby recreational lake.
(3) Hemlock, Michigan, where a not-yet-verified contaminant located either in the air, food chain or the groundwater has resulted in increased health disorders both for livestock and human residents.
(4) Gray, Maine, where 750 families drank polluted groundwater for four years, as a result of leaks from an inactive solvent and oil processing facility.
(5) Shakopee, Minnesota, where Pollution Controls, Inc., which incinerated combustible paint sludges, solvents and waste oils, is under court injunction to clean up and eliminate an inventory of 30,000 drums.
Wastes disposed of at these and other sites that the Subcommittee has reviewed include highly-toxic dioxin, C,5-6 (hexachlorocyclopentadiene), trichlorophenol, tricholorethylene, and other organic and inorganic contaminants. Such wastes can and do produce toxic effects in humans and animals including poisoning, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, and teratogenicity (fetus-deforming qualities).
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was enacted on October 21, 1976 to protect the land, drinking water supplies and the food chain from environmental pollution.* Subtitle C of the Act establishes a system of regulatory control over hazardous wastes from the point of generation of these wastes to the point of ultimate disposal.
The Subcommittee began its investigation into hazardous waste management and the implementation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in the spring of 1979. Four issues in particular prompted the Subcommittee's inquiry and provide a basis for the substance of this report:
(1) The content of proposed regulations to implement Section 3001 Identification and Listing of Hazardous Waste under the Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA);
(2) The continuing failure of EPA to promulgate RCRA Subtitle C regulations according to the statutory schedule;
(3) Enforcement actions initiated by the EPA reorganization, applicable statutory authority, compilation of an adequate waste site inventory, state and federal governments' willingness and ability to
*See Appendix I for a summary of RCRA Subtitle C provisions.
respond to environmental hazards and federal assistance to states for enforcement actions; and
(4) EPA organization as related to implementation of RCRA. During its investigation, the Subcommittee made numerous inquiries of consumers, industry officials, agency officials and various environmental groups. The investigation prompted two days of Subcommittee hearings, which were held on July 19 and August 1, 1979. Testifying at the hearings were the following individuals:
Mrs. Carol Jean Kruger, Citizen, Hemlock, Michigan.
Mrs. Kathryn Jungnitsch, Citizen, Hemlock, Michigan.
Dr. Howard A. Tanner, Director, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
William Marks, Assistant Chief, Bureau of Environmental Protection, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Jack Bails, Chief, Environmental Enforcement Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Dr. James Truchan, Environmental Specialist, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Mr. Thomas F. Schimpf, Assistant Attorney General, Environmental Protection Division, State of Michigan.
John McGuire, Regional Administrator, Region V, Environmental Protection Agency.
Fran Phillips, Assistant Regional Administrator, Region VI, Environmental Protection Agency.
Lee Botts, Chairman, Great Lakes Basin Commission.
A. Blakeman Early, Washington Representative, Sierra Club. William Sanjour, Chief, Hazardous Waste Implementation Branch, State Programs and Resource Recovery Division, Environmental Protection Agency.
Hugh B. Kaufman, Program Manager, Damage Assessment Program, Hazardous Waste Management Division, Environmental Protection Agency.
Barbara Blum, Deputy Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency.
Thomas C. Jorling, Assistant Administrator for Water and Waste Management, Environmental Protection Agency.
Jeffrey G. Miller, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Enforcement and Chairman, Task Force on Hazardous Wastes, Environmental Protection Agency.
The following report is based on the Subcommittee's hearings and data received in response to its inquiries throughout the investigation.