Ten years ago the U.S. Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which was intended to provide "cradle to grave" regulation and oversight of hazardous wastes from U.S. industry. On the 10th anniversary of RCRA, the Congressional Research Service (an arm of the Congress) has issued a report on the generation, transportation and management of hazardous waste in the U.S. Entitled HAZARDOUS WASTE FACT BOOK, the report concludes "there are no current data concerning most facets of hazardous waste generation and disposal." The report says that EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has made several efforts to collect such data but "most remain unpublished because of problems in methodology that raise significant questions about data quality."
Based on existing data, the authors conclude that "more waste with hazardous characteristics is excluded from regulation under RCRA than is regulated" and they conclude that "most waste is disposed of on the site where it is generated."
The report says that 770 land disposal facilities (about half of all such disposal facilities in the U.S.) were in "significant non-compliance" with RCRA regulations at the beginning of fiscal year 1987 and the number of facilities in non-compliance seems to be growing rather than shrinking, despite EPA's enforcement efforts.
Editorial comment: This report offers evidence that government isn't controlling the hazardous waste problem in America. It is apparent that the government has not measured the size of the problem accurately, that congress's response to the problem (RCRA) is not working, and that the EPA's enforcement program is ineffective. The report gives us renewed conviction that this problem will never be solved until enough angry citizens demand action--action by government and action by industry. Citizen involvement is the key.
For a copy of the report (No. 87-56 ENR), contact James McCarthy, Congressional Research Service, Library
of Congress, Washington, DC 20540.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: legislation; us congress; resource conservation and recovery act; hazardous waste; industry; congressional research service; studies; hazardous waste fact book; epa; regulations; compliance; editorials; crs; rcra; waste production statistics;