Most hazardous waste in the U.S. is placed in unlined surface impoundments that put no barrier between the waste and the nation's ground water, says the Congressional Research Service (an arm of the U.S. Congress). This despite 10 years of effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA has not only failed to control the waste problem, it has even failed to define the size of the problem clearly. The EPA has tried nine times since 1973 to estimate the amount of hazardous waste being produced annually by U.S. industries. Here are EPA's nine estimates:
"In short," says the Congressional Research Service (CRS), "it cannot be said with any confidence how much hazardous waste is being generated in the United States. Perhaps more important," says CRS, "lacking time series data using a consistent methodology, it is not known whether the amount is increasing or decreasing."
Why is it important to know how much waste is being created each year? First, because we need to know how much waste management capacity the nation needs; and second, we can't tell whether "waste reduction" is occurring if we don't know how much waste is being produced this year compared to last year. Careful measurement of the waste problem is an absolute requirement of any waste reduction plan or program.
For further information on these subjects, see James E. McCarthy and Mark E. Anthony Reisch, HAZARDOUS WASTE FACT BOOK [87-56 ENR] (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Jan., 1987). Free from Mr. McCarthy at: (202) 287-7225.
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--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: hazardous waste; landfilling; groundwater; congressional research service; epa; waste production statistics; crs; studies; surface impoundments; misfeasance;