Congress of the United States
Office of Technology Assessment

This is an Office of Technology Assessment internal memorandum. It is being made available solely for review purposes and should not be quoted, circulated, reproduced or represented as an official OTA document. The material is undergoing revision and should not be considered final.
 

MEMORANDUM
 

Date: May 17, 1984

Subject: Where Have All The Superfund Wastes Gone?

From: William Sanjour

To: Joel Hirschhorn
 

BACKGROUND

    In the course of writing our staff memorandum of April 6, 1984, it came to my attention that superfund clean up wastes were sometimes being moved to sites which were leaking hazardous waste into the environment and could also become superfund sites. I don't know the full extent of this problem but I think it is a subject which ought to be researched more thoroughly, perhaps by the General Accounting Office. In order to aid such research I would like to summarize the relevant information which I have on the subject.

    It is my understanding that when the superfund program was young, a policy was drafted that would have required that before a site could accept superfund clean up wastes it had to be thoroughly investigated by the EPA superfund office. This investigation was to determine if a candidate site was located, constructed and operated so as to preclude the possibility of the hazardous wastes re-entering the environment. The criteria would have been over and above the minimum standards for interim status hazardous waste disposal facilities required under RCRA.

    However it became clear that if this policy were implemented it would have resulted in EPA's superfund office rejecting sites which are approved of by EPA's solid waste office under RCRA. Thus, the superfund office's proposed policy was made considerably less stringent.

    The current policy on the requirements for selecting an off-site option in superfund response actions as put forward in William Hedeman's memo of January 29, 1983, limits the superfund office's review to violations of the RCRA standards, which means the interim status standards. Nevertheless the memo does say that "if, in the judgement of the Regional reviewers, the deficiencies at a facility may result in unsound treatment, storage or disposal practices, or pose a threat of future releases, the facility should not be selected for receiving hazardous substances from CERCLA [i .e. superfund] projects." And further that "a facility engaged in 'assessment' monitoring is presumed to be leaking. The seriousness of the rate and extent of migration from the facility should be evaluated before deciding to transport wastes to a facility doing assessment monitoring."

    The RCRA interim status standards require detection monitoring of groundwater for four indicator parameters "that will be used to determine whether a facility is leaking"(1). If a facility is leaking, it must undergo a more detailed monitoring assessment program "to determine the cause and the extent of contamination"(2). Thus, "Monitoring of indicator parameters is intended to detect facility leakage into the ground water. If such leakage is detected the ground-water quality assessment program is to be implemented to establish the magnitude of the problem"(3).

    As pointed out in the OTA study of March, 1983 and the OTA staff memorandum of April 6, 1984, these EPA interim status standards are not adequate to protect human health and the environment. They do not even provide enough information to make a reasonable determination of whether a site is leaking. Furthermore, as GAO has shown, these inadequate standards are not even being enforced.

    Therefore the Hedeman policy gives very little assurance that sites receiving superfund cleanup wastes will not also become superfund sites. Furthermore, conversations with EPA personnel and the examples listed below tend to indicate that this policy is not being implemented. Oversight of this policy was expected to be carried out by EPA regional personnel even when the superfund clean up was administered by a state. My information indicates, however, that even this minimum oversight is not taking place and that EPA does not even possess the information necessary to implement this policy(4), That is why we are finding cases of superfund wastes going to sites which are later found to be leaking.

    Many of the examples given below are for so-called "emergency" cleanups. The explanation is sometimes heard that because of the "emergency" nature of the cleanup, EPA cannot put too many restrictions on where the wastes are brought. This may be true for something like a train derailment in a residential area, but does not apply to most of the cases we are dealing with here which are old, well known industrial and commercial dump sites. I was head of EPA's hazardous waste damage assessment program from 1974 to 1976 and I know that EPA was well aware of many of these sites back then. Since these sites were not cleaned up until the 80's, calling it an "emergency" response does not explain why these wastes were not incinerated or otherwise treated rather than moved to another dump, especially since EPA says there is a large amount of unused hazardous waste treatment capacity across the United States(5),
 

EXAMPLES

    The first example we found of this is the Stringfellow superfund site in California. Superfund clean up wastes have been transferred from Stringfellow to the BKK interim status landfill in West Covina, California. BKK is now reported to be leaking and EPA has ordered the facility to phase out of land disposal(6).

    There are other facts about this site which are, I think, worthy of further research. Although the site is known to be leaking, it is not in assessment(7) . Also, BKK has been named by EPA as one of the "potentially responsible parties" for the Stringfellow site(8). Thus BKK was paid to dump hazardous wastes in Stringfellow where it leaked into the environment, and then paid again by superfund to haul the wastes from Stringfellow to the BKK facility where it may be leaking again.

    In another case, the state of Louisiana awarded a contract of almost $200,000 to clean up the Tate Cove hazardous waste site in Baton Rouge to Rollins Environmental Services(9) to be disposed of in their Baton Rouge landfill . However, Rollins' Baton Rouge landfill is also leaking and is in assessment.

    In Michigan, $249,000 of superfund money was spent to remove wastes from the Liquid Disposal Inc. site in Utica. These wastes were treated at Chem-Met Services in Brownston Township and disposed in the Wayne landfill in Belleville(10). According to EPA records, obtained in a "Freedom of Information Act" request(11), the Wayne landfill is currently in assessment (i.e. leaking) and its groundwater monitoring system is inadequate as is the groundwater monitoring system at Chem-Met.

    Another Michigan superfund site which received $700,000 of emergency cleanup funds is Berlin and Farro in Swartz Creek(12). Wastes from this cleanup were sent to several landfills including the above mentioned leaking Wayne Disposal site(13).

    A superfund emergency cleanup award was given to Waste Management Inc. to clean up the Calumet Container Co. drum recycling facility near Hammond, Indiana. The wastes were disposed n the CID landfill in Calumet City, Illinois operated by Waste. Management Inc.(14) This landfill is leaking and its groundwater monitoring system has been judged inadequate by EPA(15). Other superfund wastes which have gone to this landfill are wastes from the Midwest Solvent Recovery Co. (MIDCO I) clean up in Indiana(16).

    Wastes from MIDCO I have also gone to the ESL landfill in Joliet Illinois(17) which is also operated by Waste Management Inc. This landfill is also in assessment by EPA and its groundwater monitoring system is, according to EPA, inadequate(18).

    Twenty-four hazardous waste generators agreed to pay $7.7 million to remove 60,000 barrels of hazardous waste from the Seymour Recycling superfund site in Indiana. As part of the consent decree, the twenty-four companies will not be subject to further litigation. The contract for the removal went to Waste Management Inc., who was also one of the twenty-four parties to the consent decree. EPA estimates that an additional $15 million will be needed to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater beneath the site. These funds will be requested from the 340 other companies that disposed wastes at Seymour(19).

    Wastes from Seymour were brought to several Waste Management Inc. disposal sites including the injection well site at Vickery, Ohio(20). A recent study by the Ohio EPA concluded that about 45 million gallons of hazardous waste have leaked from five injection disposal wells at the Vickery site(21).

    Thus, Waste Management Inc. has been paid to dump the same wastes twice in succession in two different leaking sites. Furthermore, Waste Management Inc. is relieved of further liability for cleanup at Seymour.

    Wastes from the superfund cleanup of the Texas City Wye dump, also known as the MOTCO site, will reportedly be sent to TECO disposal facility near Robstown, Texas(22). The TECO facility has been leaking and contaminating groundwater for several years(23).
 

MAJOR SITES

    Possibly the four largest recipients of superfund cleanup wastes are the Waste Management Inc. landfill at Emelle, Alabama; the SCA Services Inc. landfill in Model City, New York; and two CECOS International Corp. landfills in Williamsburg Ohio and Niagara Falls, New York. Since so much of the superfund wastes are going to these sites, there are issues connected with each of them which I feel should be further researched.

    The Emelle, Alabama landfill has a waiver from the requirement to monitor groundwater although the site is literally standing in groundwater. This is because of a feature in the RCRA regulations which requires groundwater to be monitored only in an "aquifer". Since the groundwater in which the wastes at Emelle are soaking moves too slowly to be technically called an "aquifer", groundwater monitoring has been waived by the State of Alabama. Yet this is very much like the geological situation which existed in Love Canal where slow moving groundwater, which had been soaking in the toxic waste dump, seeped into the basements of adjoining houses.

    Below is a list of some of the superfund cleanups which have gone to Emelle. Where cost is shown, both here and elsewhere, it may include more than the cost of cleanup and disposal.

  • Petro Products, Athens, AL(24)
  • Old Mill, Ashtabula County, OH(25)
  • Anniston Army Depot, Anniston, AL $5,200,000(26)
  • Miami Drum Services, Dade Cty., FL, $1,750,000(27)
  • Seymour Recycling, Seymour, IN, $7,700,000(28)
  •     EPA's response to my FOIA request did not include information on the Emelle site nor the CECOS site in Ohio. The letter from John Skinner said that "EPA does not have the requested information on the facilities located in Ohio and Alabama in its possession. If the information is available, it may be obtained from the state agencies." This was further confirmed by telephone calls to EPA headquarters and regional personnel.

        As mentioned earlier, the policy in William Hedeman's memo requires EPA oversight to assure that the facilities receiving superfund wastes meet certain minimum conditions. It is difficult to understand how EPA can exercise this oversight at two of the largest recipients of superfund wastes if, as Skinner claims, it does not possess the information.

        Some of the cleanup wastes which have gone to the CECOS landfill in Williamsburg, Ohio are:

  • Berlin & Farro, Swartz Creek, MI, $700,000(29)
  • Petrochem Services, Lamont, IL, $50,000(30)
  • roadside spill in WV, $50,000(31)
  • Laskin-Poplar, Jefferson, OH, $1,165,000(32)
  • Summit, Deerfield, OH, $2,400,000(33)
  • Liquid Disposal, Utica, MI $70,000(34)
  • "Valley of the Drums", Brooks, KY(35)
  • Taylor Road Landfill , Seffner, FL(36)
  •     According to EPA records(37) the CECOS landfill in New York has submitted a "notice of significant increase in indicator concentrations" on 11/8/93. Under EPA regulation 40 CER 265.93 (d) this means the site is leaking and is required to submit a groundwater quality assessment plan and must proceed to implement the plan to determine the magnitude of the problem, i.e they should be "in assessment" . Nevertheless the same records indicate that the facility is not in assessment and has not submitted the required reports.

        Some of the superfund cleanups sent to this site are:

  • PCB removal , Waterbury, CT(38)
  • Clean America Inc., Baltimore, MD, $50,000(39)
  • Lehigh Electric, Old Forge Borough, PA, $4,000,000(40)
  • Westline Inc, McKean County., PA, $312,000(41)
  • Chemical Control Corp., Elizabeth, NJ, $26,000,000(42)
  • Seymour Recycling, Seymour, IN(43)
  • Pollution Abatement Services, Oswego, NY.(44)
  •     In the response I received to my FOIA request(45), the SCA landfill in New York claimed as confidential information; 1) whether or not the site was in assessment, 2) whether or not they had submitted a "notice of significant increase of indicator concentrations", and 3) whether or not they had submitted a "groundwater quality assessment report". I cannot think of any reason why a facility would make such a claim if it were not in assessment. (I also cannot understand why the State of New York or the USEPA would allow such information to be withheld.) Furthermore the same form indicates that the groundwater monitoring system and the groundwater sampling and analysis program have not been evaluated.

        Some of the superfund cleanups sent to this site are:

  • Taylor Borough Dump, Lackawanna Cty., PA, $375,000(46)
  • Inland Pollution Control, Braintree, MA, $363,000(47)
  • Pinette Salvage Yard, Washburn, ME(48)
  • Norwood, MA, $100,000(49)
  • Cecil Cty., MD, $10,000(50).
  •     (As indicated above, the FOIA response was incomplete. EPA has since promised a more complete response. I will revise this memo, if necessary, when I receive that response.)
     

    ISSUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH

        I would suggest research which traces the expenditure of all superfund monies; from the federal government, to the state government, to the cleanup contractor, to the hauler, to the waste treater, to the ultimate disposer. Federal and state records should then be checked to see if there are any reasons to question the integrity of the ultimate disposal site. The research should also attempt to determine if EPA exercised adequate oversight on the expenditures.

        One of the issues which might also be looked into is the extent to which persons responsible for superfund sites are also the beneficiaries of the superfund. Two cases of this were cited above; the Waste Management Inc. cleanup of the Seymour, Indiana superfund site, and the BKK cleanup of the Stringfellow, California site. Other examples could be cited.

        It appears to be inevitable that some sites to which superfund wastes have been taken will also become superfund sites. This fact will have many ramifications. One issue which is bound to emerge, if it isn't resolved in advance, is the liability of the original generators and disposers. Will they be liable a second time? It would be preferable if this issue were resolved in legislation rather than in costly, long drawn out litigation.

        Another issue which arises is the wisdom with which superfund money is being spent on short range temporary solutions. It is apparently the policy of OMB to discount future cash flow at a high rate. The net result of this policy is that when EPA weighs the alternatives for treating or disposing of wastes at a superfund site, the option of disposing it in another site usually looks most cost effective because the cost of it becoming a future superfund site has been heavily discounted. A study should be made of whether some other discount rate might be appropriate for superfund cleanups, and how other factors could be used to determine effective cleanups.
     

    ENDNOTES

    1. 45 FR 33194.
    2. ibid.
    3. 45 FR 33195.
    4. John Skinner, EPA, letter to Will am Sanjour, 5/7/64.
    5. S. Dietz et. al., National Survey of Hazardous Waste Generators and Treatment. Storage and Disposal Facilities Regulated Under RCRA in 1981, (Washington, D.C., U.S.E.P.A., April 20, 1964) p.7.
    6. HAZARDOUS WASTE REPORT, 1/9/84, p.11.
    7. Barry Stoll , EPA, 4/17/94.
    8. HWR, 5/2/83, p.10.
    9. HWR, 9/20/82, p.7.
    10. HAZARDOUS MATERIALS INTELLIGENCE REPORT, 6/13/82, p.3.
    11. Skinner, op. cit.
    12. HMIR, 1/20/64, p.7.
    13. J, Truchan, Michigan DNR, phonecon 5/7/84.
    14. HMIR, 5/21/82, p.6.
    15. Skinner op cit.
    16. Beverly Kusch, EPA Reg. V, phonecon 5/7/84.
    17. Kusch op. cit.
    18. Skinner op. cit.
    19. HWR, 11/1/82, p.4.
    20. Kusch op. cit.
    21. HMIR, 4/27/84, p.5.
    22. Houston Chronicle, 1/17/84, p.10.
    23. Harvey Davis, Texas Dept. of Water Resources, letter to Arnold Gonzales, 9/23/82.
    24. HMIR, 10/21/83, p.8.
    25. HMIR, 10/29/82, p.7.
    26. HMIR, 9/3/62, p 3.
    27. HMIR, 6/11/82.
    28. Kusch op. cit.
    29. HMIR, 11/25/83, p.7.
    30. HMIR, 12/10/82, p.7.
    31. HMIR, 9/17/82, p.3.
    32. HMIR, 7/2/82, p.7.
    33. HMIR, 6/25/82, p.7.
    34. HMIR, 6/4/92, p.6.
    35. A. Smith, USEPA Reg. IV, phonecon 4/24/94.
    36. ibid.
    37. Skinner op. cit.
    38. HWR, 5/16/83, p.14.
    39. HMIR, 2/5/64, p.8.
    40. HMIR, 1/20/84, p.4.
    41. HMIR, 12/9/63, p.3.
    42. HMIR, 3/12/62, p.1.
    43. HMIR, 1/23/81, p.7.
    44. HMIR, 1/23/81, p.7.
    45. Skinner op. cit.
    46. HMIR, 1/20/64, p.3.
    47. HMIR, 12/9/63, p 3.
    48. HMIR, 10/21/93,. p. 8.
    49. HMIR, 7/1/83, p.7.
    50. HMIR, 7/9/82, p. 3.
     
     
     
     

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