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EPA May Reconsider Toxic Waste Loophole

dumpThe detritus from e-waste recycling may have to find another destination if the EPA reverses stance on a toxic-waste disposal loophole. One of the issues revolves around PCBs used in some electronics equipment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking for public input to evaluate environmental justice concerns, particularly in low-income communities where waste dumps are often located, due to a Bush-era loophole that removed federal oversight of companies including those in steel, chemical and pharmaceutical industries that handle 1.5 million tons of hazardous waste each year, reports CommonDreams.org.

The EPA will discuss the preliminary plan (PDF) for the environmental justice analysis at a public meeting with the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council on Jan. 28 in New Orleans, reports the Website.

Facilities in Iowa, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are already operating under the exemption, of which at least six of them are chronic violators and 19 are in communities that are predominantly low-income or minority, according to an analysis by Earthjustice, reports CommonDreams.org.

The EPA also plans to investigate a cluster of facial birth defects and other health issues among migrant farm workers in the poor California enclave of Kettleman City, which are suspected to be linked to a nearby toxic waste dump, reports the San Francisco Sentinel (via Los Angeles Times).

Residents have filed a lawsuit against the Kings County Board of Supervisors challenging its approval of an expansion of the Chemical Waste Management dump to accommodate waste from large population areas including Los Angeles, reports the San Francisco Sentinel.

Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region, said in the article that the case meets the standards of the Obama administration’s recent decision to make environmental justice a priority.

Although Chemical Waste Management voluntarily decided not to accept solid or hazardous wastes from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory because of possible radioactive content in the materials, it continues to accept carcinogenic PCBs from old transformers under a special permit, reports the San Francisco Sentinel.

The company blamed the EPA since the special permit has been under EPA review since it expired about 12 years ago, according to the article.

In May last year, the EPA announced it would address the next steps on two hazardous waste rules : Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) and the Emission Comparable Fuels (ECF). The DSW rule modified the regulations for recycling hazardous secondary materials to encourage the recycling of certain materials.

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