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Llf?R M r»V 8 The Line on Hazardous Waste Hazardous waste management raises issues that cross economic, scientific, social, and political boundaries. The folluwing article outlines some of the issues and offers suggestions for further reading. Americans have ambivalent feelings toward the chemical industry. Nearly everyone likes wrinkle-free clothes, long-life batteries, and shatterproof bottles that bounce off the bathroom floor, yet the public grows increasingly fearful of chemicals. ... and Americans faced an interesting dilemma. Such was not always the case. For years, consumers eagerly embraced each exciting innovation from the nation's laboratories. Hardly anyone questioned how chemicals or chemical wastes might affect the environment. Chemical products represented progress. The environment was not a major public concern. One tragic series of events shook the public's faith in chemistry. A disaster in Niagara Falls, New York dramatically called public attention to the potential danger posed by hazardous waste. Long-buried chemical wastes were reportedly seeping into the basements of several homes in the city's Love Canal neighborhood. Shocked residents feared for the health and safety of their children. Television cameras focused on scenes of despair and desolation. An outraged populace wondered who was to blame, but the tragedy had no clearly identifiable villains - only victims. In 1941 the American chemical industry produced less than 1 billion pounds of synthetic organic chemicals and generated a correspondingly small amount ·of hazardous waste. Chemical manufacturers buried most of the waste in landfills or held it in lagoons on plant property. Both methods of disposal were considered safe and responsible. Hazardous waste was out of sight and out of mind. By 1978 production of synthetic organic chemicals exceeded 350 bil- Suddenly, the public wondered if technology was out of control. Panic struck after the Love Canal disaster. Many Americans armed themselves with flashlights and crept down the basement stairs in search of oozing, multi-colored slime. That danger, however, is somewhat exaggerated. Very few people actually live atop or directly adjacent to buried hazardous waste. Old dump sites Hazardous Waste Control Waste Generation Transportation Incineration Secure Landfill As a result of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act hazardous waste is tracked by using a manifest system to follow it through the disposal process. The various steps lead ultimately to the safe disposal of waste or recovery of usable materials. Courtesy of Chemical Manufacturers Association lion pounds, and Americans faced an interesting dilemma. Chemical products made life easier and safer, but manufacturers of those products generated a greater volume of potentially hazardous waste (see inset). Waste management techniques had not kept pace with the chemical industry's spectacular growth, and the increasing amount of potentially hazardous waste threatened to overwhelm existing disposal facili ties. and improperly handled waste pose a more serious threat to ground water that lies beneath the land's surface in formations of rock, sand, and gravel. Ground water is the primary source of drinking water to approximately half the nation's communities. It is also easily contaminated and virtually impossible to cleanse. Contamination results when porous soil allows mishandled waste Continued on Page 2 Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Vol. 8, No. 1 - March 1982 https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Hazardous Waste Secure Chemical Landfill Continued From Front Page to leach (seep) into ground water. Depending on an area's soil conditions, leaching wastes can migrate vertically or horizontally at speeds ranging from a few feet per day to a few feet per decade. A well-designed, secure chemical landfill retards leaching with a lining of compacted clay or some other impermeable material. Unfortunately, most old landfills and dump sites are unlined. Wastes seeping from such sites frequently foul municipal wells and endanger public health. LAW OF THE LAND Old and abandoned disposal sites also pose a difficult economic problem. Those that threaten ground water must be secured . Cleanup operations, however, are usually expensive, and all too often the owners of old sites are either dead, bankrupt, or unidentifiable. (Massachusetts taxpayers paid nearly $3 million to secure a chemical reclamation facility after the facility's owner declared bankruptcy.) In an effort to address this problem, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (1980). The act created a $1.6 billion "superfund " to help pay for the cleanup of abandoned or inactive hazardous waste disposal sites. Much of the money will come from the chemical industry, in the form of an excise tax to be paid by the manufacturers, producers, or importers of 42 specified chemicals. The excise tax ranges from a low of 22<r per ton on some chemicals to a high of $4 .87 per ton on others. As of November 1981, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had targeted 114 top-priority waste dumps for "superfund" cleanup aid. Most of the sites present an immediate threat to the ground water supplies of nearby towns. The "superfund" act follows an earlier piece of legislation known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976). RCRA is designed to combat illegal dumping and halt the proliferation of dangerous dump sites. Prior to RCRA's passage, manufacturers often contracted for what they thought would be responsible disposal, only to have the contractor dump the waste illegally. In one particularly chilling instance, a North Carolina firm hired a contractor to haul PCB-contaminated waste to a secure, out-of-state disposal site. The 2 https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Monitoring well colkm undergrou nd \\ acer to check for possible cnnwmi na tion. j r---1'--~ Solidwaste layers Monitoring well 1 Subsurface lateral drains rforatcd and · a drainpipe"' hich d hate Natural soil Groundwater Courtesy of Chemical Manufacturers Association contractor subsequently dumped much of the deadly cargo along 210 miles of North Carolina roadways. (PCBs are linked to a variety of health disorders. See inset.) RCRA seeks to prevent such violations by establishing a "cradle-tograve" monitoring system to track hazardous waste from generation through disposal. Any manufacturing plant, laboratory, or transportation center that generates more than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste per month must comply with regulations that set standards for safe handling and disposal. The act also covers waste transporters and disposal facilities. Compliance with RCRA will probably cost industry well over $1 billion annually, but if the legislation succeeds, life will be more difficult for unscrupulous waste handlers and safer for everyone else. GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS The same technology that creates hazardous waste, also provides the means for effective waste management. Modified plant designs , improved manufacturing processes, secure landfills, controlled incineration, reclamation, and recycling are viable waste management options. These technological innovations are far preferable to older disposal solutions. Many are considerably more expensive as well. One chemical manufacturer invested $75 million in a new energy-from-waste facility. From 1977 through 1980, the same manufacturer also budgeted more than $180 million for environmental programs. Advanced waste management technology and government regula- tion will undoubtedly mm1m1ze the danger posed by hazardous waste . Both will also add to the cost of doing business. (The cost for responsible disposal, treatment, or storage of hazardous waste ranges anywhere from $10 to $150 a drum, depending on toxicity. By contrast, illegal dumping sometimes costs as little as $1.50 a drum.) Some of the increased cost will inevitably be passed on to consumers through higher prices for chemical products. This creates a problem because consumers have usually balked at paying more for intangibles. Health, safety, and the environment have traditionally taken a back seat to price, convenience, and styling. Responsible waste management also places an economic burden on smaller companies. Many will not be able to pass on their increased costs and still maintain a competitive position. Large and small companies alike may decide to spend less money on research for new products. Finally, adverse economic conditions may dampen public enthusiasm for measures aimed at controlling hazardous waste. Concern over inflation and unemployment may take precedence over concern for the environment. Hazardous waste management raises a number of provocative economic and social issues. No issue, however, is more urgent or more sensitive than choosing the location for a hazardous waste disposal facility. Environmentally sound hazardous waste disposal facilities are technologically feasible and economically vital. In areas that lack adequate waste management capacity, illegal dumping will continue, public health will suffer, and commerce will decline. Soaring transportation costs will force businesses to locate or relocate closer to waste disposal facilities. Most people readily acknowledge the need for additional waste management facilities. The problem is that hardly anybody wants to live in the same town with one. They frighten people. Some fear that property values will plummet. Others wonder if the facilities are truly safe. Hazardous waste can be properly managed, but the challenge is complex and the expense is considerable. The problems involved in locating a hazardous waste disposal site clearly illustrate that innovative technology, legislative guidelines, and more money can only do so much. Success ultimately hinges on whether or not industry, government, and the public can join in a cooperative effort to confront difficult issues and deep-seated fears. FOLLOW-UP Each of the following selections offers a different perspective on one or more of the critical questions that surround hazardous waste management. Few of the questions have clearcut answers. Many are charged with emotion. Informed public participation is essential if such questions are to be resolved. Factline, Number 1, "A Hard Look at the Love Canal." Factline, Number 11, "Love Canal: The Facts (1892-1980)." Both pamphlets published by: Hooker Chemical Company, P.O. Box 4289, Houston, Texas 77210, attn: Public Affairs & Communications Hazardous Waste Update, a newsletter published by: Division of Hazardous Waste, Dept. of Environmental Quality Engineering, 1 Winter Street, 8th Floor, Boston, MA 02108, attn: Update Laying Waste, Michael H. Brown. Pantheon Books, New York, 1980. Managing Chemical Waste, a booklet published by: Chemical Manufacturers Association, 2501 M Street, Nw, Washington, D.C. 20037 Minamata, W. Eugene Smith. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New York, 1975. Photos and text describe the effects of mercury poisoning on residents of a Japanese fishing port. "Promise and Perils of Petrochemicals," Barry Commoner. New York Times Magazine, September 25, 1977, pp. 38-40 + . https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis HAZARDOUS WHAT? Chemical waste often makes headlines. Not all hazardous wastes, however, are generated during the manufacture of chemicals and chemical products. Hazardous ux:zstes are created by a variety of sources including industry, tlie military, schools, hospitals, and research laboratories. Of these, industry is the largest generator. Most industrial and manufacturing processes generate some hazardous UX1ste. Seventeen industries are expected to be most affected by hazardous 'UXlste regulations bemuse the type of hazardous UX1stes they produce are expensive to treat or dispose ofand/or bemuse they generate large oolumes of hazardous UX1stes: electronics; electroplating; plastics; metal finishing; special machinery; manufacturing; inorganic chemimls; textiles; metals smelting and refining; leather tanning and finishing; pesticides; rubber; pharmaceutiazls; paint and allied products; batteries; explosives; and petroleum refining and rerefining. Methyl mercury, formed by the action of bacteria in sediments on mercury metal and on mercuric ions, mn muse poisoning, deafness, brain damage, and a range of birth defects. Excerpt from Hazardous Waste Problem and Its Management, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering, September 1981. Pesticide residues found in mothers' milk and in blood, urine and other human fluids indimte haw widespread toxic substances contamination has become. Hazardous wastes are either flammable, explosive, corrosive, or toxic. Some are strange and frightening. Many, such as used automotive oil, are not. All hazardous wastes, however, have one thing in common. If improperly handled, they pose a potential threat to public health. Courtesy of Mass. DEQE Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used as a heat transfer fluid for electriazl transformers, mpacitors, and other equipment, and as an additive in dyes, mrbon paper, and plastic since the 1930s, are a mse in point. PCBs, or their chlorinated dibenzofuran (CDBF) contaminants, mn muse acute skin, eye, reproductive, developmental, neurologiazl, and respiratory disorders. Some workers exposed to asbestos, even for a short time, have developed a rare mncer of the chest and stomach linings, 30-40 years after initial exposure. Excerpts from Toxic Chemicals and Public Protection, A Report to the President by the Toxic Substances Strategy Committee, May 1980. the LEDGER Editor: Robert Jabaily Graphics Arts Designer: Ernie Norville Photography: Wilson Snow Johannah Miller This newsletter is published periodical/y as a public seroice by the Federal Reseroe Bank of Boston. Th e reporting of news about economic educat ion programs and materials should not be construed as a specific endorsement by the Bank. Further, the material contained herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reseroe Bank of Boston or the Board of Governors. Copies of this newsletter and a catalogue of other educational materials and research publications may be obtained free of charge by writing: Bank and Public Information Center, Federal Reseroe Bank of Boston , Boston . MA 02106, or by cal/ing: (617) 973-3459. 3 Innovative Classroom Mmm Mmm, GOOD! The guidelines for good nutrition used to be simple and direct. A breakfast of bacon and eggs was the only way to start the day, and a good steak was the best meal money could buy. Nutrition education was equally simple and direct. Teachers hung posters that featured two wholesomelooking children, one cow, and selections from each basic food group. Times change, of course, and new information now challenges some long-standing assumptions about good nutrition. The overwhelming volume and variety of available information sometimes leads to uncertainty at the grocery s tore and frustration at the dinner table ("They say everything is bad for you, so you might as well just eat what you like!"). The growing volume of nutrition information also challenges nutrition .education to be more comprehensive and less prescriptive. Simply urging students to eat a balanced diet no longer suffices. FOOD ... Your Choice is a nutrition learning system that offers just such a comprehensive approach . The activity-oriented curriculum provides students with a framework for making intelligent decisions about nutrition. National Dairy Council developed FOOD ... Your Choice with input from curriculum specialists, nutritionists, child development experts, classroom teachers, and professional evaluators. The K-12 learning system Fed Update Artists in Artisanry, an exhibition of work by faculty of Boston University's Program in Artisanry, will open at the Federal Reserve Bank Gallery, 600 Atlantic Avenue in Boston, on March 5. The exhibition is free and open to the public and will be on view through April 23. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a m to 4 Pm . Goosed, box wi th sculpture lid, cast bronze, by J. Fred Woell. 4 https://fraser.stlouisfed.org Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis ► is well-designed and simple to use . Each of its four levels is geared to the needs of a specific population, and all the levels can be used in conjunction with an existing curriculum . Levels One through Three comprise the learning system's elementary school component. Level Four serves secondary school students and offers four separate units on each of the following subject areas: health, home economics, sciences, and social studies. Both the elementary and secondary school components have been nationally field-tested in urban, suburban, and rural schools. In addition to being well-designed and comprehensive, FOOD ... Your Choice is enjoyable. The graphics are attractive and the activities are imaginative. Finally, FOOD ... Your Choice addresses several topical issues that many nutrition education programs ignore. The secondary school social studies unit, for example, explores such areas as government regulation of the food industry, industrial pollution's effect on the food supply, and the food additives issue. National Dairy Council offers FOOD ... Your Choice to educators at a very low cost, and Dairy Council representatives conduct free workshops to familiarize teachers with the nutrition learning system. For further information on FOOD ... Your Choice, contact New England Dairy Council: Boston, MA (617) 734-6750 Worcester, MA (617) 755-6239 West Springfield, MA (413) 7338198 Cranston, RI (401) 781-4292 Bedford, NH (603) 472-5761 Hartford, CT (203) 527-5197 Multi-Media Your Credit Rating, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Fair and accurate credit reporting is important to the creditor and the consumer. YOUR CREDIT RATING discusses the major factors considered by a creditor in granting credit privileges, what a credit file contains, and to whom it may be issued . It also briefly outlines the consumer's rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Free copies of the pamphlet are available from the Bank and Public Information Center, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Boston, MA 02106, (617) 973-3459. (Appropriate for high school and adult level.) Fiscal Policy, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Government plays a role in the United States economy. FISCAL POLICY delineates some of the approaches government might take to change the amount it collects relative to the amount it spends. It also examines the potential impact of budget deficits as well as various ways of measuring and stabilizing economic activity. Discussion questions follow the text . Free copies of the publication are available from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 411 Locust Street, P.O. Box 442, St. Louis, MO 63166 or from the Bank and Public Information Center, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Boston, MA 02106, (617) 973-3459. (Appropriate for high school and adult level.) Electronic Funds Transfer, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia This pamphlet describes some of the common EFT services offered by financial institutions. It also summarizes important rights and responsibilities outlined in Regulation E for users and providers of those services. The publication is available from the Consumer Affairs Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, P.O. Box 66, Philadelphia, PA 19105. (Appropriate for high school and adult level. ) the LEDGER