Gulf Waste — could be headed to a landfill near you?

One of the "fathers of Environmental Justice" and NAACP member Dr. Robert D. Bullard sent the Climate Justice team an interesting article on an ABC news story entitled Gulf Waste Heads to Landfills, Some With Problems. Below are my thoughts on the article:

Now that a seal has been placed on the pump that was releasing 42,000 gallons of oil into the waters of the gulf each day, some might think the worst is behind us. However, since the beginning of this catastrophic BP Oil Disaster the main question that was plaguing my mind was: Where is the oil debris going to end up? Well, according to this and numerous articles about the BP Oil Disaster, the debris might end up in a landfill near you.

“More than 50,000 tons of boom and oily debris have made their way to landfills or incinerators,” federal officials told The Associated Press, “representing about 7 percent of the daily volume going to nine area landfills.”

The article further asserts, that these nine area landfills are government approved based on federal regulations. EPA officials stated that the landfills selected have the capability to handle the “oily waste” and there are mechanisms in place to check and monitor the environmental impacts. The EPA Assistant Administrator, Mathy Stanislaus was quoted in an interview as saying “If there are any issues of concern, we will revisit." Yet, some of the “government approved” waste sites where the oily debris is ending up have been cited (as recently as May 2010) for polluting nearby communities.


“The Colonial Landfill in Sorrento, La., which is receiving oil disaster related waste, was cited in May for exceeding its permitted spills into a stream feeding the Lake Pontchartrain basin 11 times last year. State officials said the dump fixed the problem last month, but got another state citation for failing to show inspectors log books and install proper barriers around its monitoring wells — problems the operator says were addressed. Louisiana environmental authorities said Friday they are still in violation.”

On the other hand, the EPA believes that violations do not disqualify landfills from accepting “oily waste.” Stanislaus said, if (or when) they find that the oil waste dumping has caused a health impact on the community the EPA will act “swiftly to stop the waste shipment.”

Now the question becomes how many people have to become sick for the government to act swiftly? Of course the effects of dumping this waste will not be seen for a number of years. I always thought that the government should focus more on prevention rather than cure. Isn’t that supposed to be the rule of thumb?. Stay Tuned!

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