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Monday, April 27, 2009

State Senate Committee Moves to Allow Toxic Waste In County Dumps

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 4:59 PM

Thanks, Ma: Toxic waste from old cars is still hunky dory in California
  • Thanks, Ma: Toxic waste from old cars is still hunky dory in California

The California Senate's Environmental Quality Committee today unanimously approved a bill that would block environmental officials from preventing 700,000 tons of toxic waste from being dumped into county landfills each year.

As reported in SF Weekly, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control last fall proposed rules that would end a 20-year-old policy of allowing residue from automobile recycling plants to be dumped in county landfills. Under rules proposed by state regulators, the toxic material would have

to be disposed of in  expensive, specially-lined landfills created to

hold hazardous materials.

Under the current policy, automobile shredders have been allowed to mix the waste -- which contains mercury, lead, PCBs, arsenic and other contaminants -- alongside ordinary household garbage, as long as it was covered with a cement-like coating designed to keep poisons from seeping into groundwater.

But studies by researchers in Arizona and Australia, as well as a 2002 report by a state toxic regulators, suggest the coating does not stop toxins from seeping into landfills. Scientific studies obtained by SF Weekly as the result of a public records request, meanwhile, indicate that California shredder waste leached more toxins than is considered safe under state environmental regulations.

Last fall, when state toxic regulators proposed halting the

ineffective coating policy, recyclers such as Schnitzer steel, which

has a large shredding plant in Oakland, complained that they would not

be able to stay in business if they had to pay the haz-mat landfill

fees.
 
In February, State Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) introduced an

industry-backed bill that would override the proposed toxic rules, so

that recyclers could continue disposing the waste in ordinary landfills.

The

bill would also create a "working group," made up of industry

representatives and state officials, to determine if shredder

waste is hazardous. The group is supposed to issue a report 20 months

from now. Until then, the bill would prohibit regulators "from altering

the current regulatory status quo."

Given that this waste contains

toxins proven to cause nervous disorders, cancers, and other disease,

and that state toxic regulators and university scientists have

determined that these toxins can leach into landfills under the current

policy, the "working group" would seem to have no purpose other than to

fend off state regulation.
 
In that spirit, the the committee

hearing's public comment period was dominated by recycling industry

representatives, who said the bill would help guarantee their economic

survival.
At press time the Senate had not posted a date for a

full vote on the bill, nor had committee staff returned a call

requesting the bill's schedule.

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Matt Smith

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