Chemical Waste Management (ChemWaste), a subsidiary of Waste Management, Inc. (the nation's largest waste hauler) announced new year's eve 1987 they were abandoning their six-year effort to gain permission to burn hazardous liquid wastes on ocean-going ships. Citizens on both coasts and along the Gulf of Mexico rang in the new year celebrating a major victory. William Y. Brown, a spokesperson for Waste Management, blamed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the firm's decision to give up its effort to burn liquid hazardous wastes from 26 states off the coast of New Jersey and Maryland. Mr. Brown said EPA's tortuous regulatory process forced ChemWaste to give up its quest. He criticized the agency for an "unending series of maneuvers to avoid making a decision" on ocean burning, in reaction to citizen opposition.
Mr. Brown also said EPA's May, 1987, proposal to regulate on-shore incineration killed ocean burning economically. Last May the EPA proposed regulations to control the burning of hazardous wastes in industrial boilers on land; the proposed regulations would "grandfather" boilers built before a certain date, allowing them to operate under less stringent rules. According to Mr. Brown, this grandfather clause will allow older incinerators to burn liquid wastes more cheaply than ChemWaste could do it at sea, thus destroying the economic incentive for ocean burning. "The same kind of waste we'd proposed to incinerate 100 miles out at sea will now be burned, if the [EPA's May] proposal goes forward, in hospital boilers 100 feet from the neonatal unit and around the corner from the emphysema ward," Mr. Brown said. An EPA spokesperson responded testily, calling Mr. Brown's assertions "patently untrue and apparently self-serving."
Mr. Brown is right. EPA's proposed boiler rules are not
stringent enough to protect public health. Mr. Brown is also
correct in his assertion that the EPA has been responding to
citizen pressure. At public hearings along the Gulf Coast, 6000
people showed up to oppose the ChemWaste burning scheme. It was
the largest public hearing ever held. A year later, 3000 people
appeared at hearings along the East coast. EPA got the message
loud and clear.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: cwmi; incineration; ocean incineration; epa; wmi; william y. brown; regulation; health; investigations;