No mega-dumps  

BREDL Challenges TCLP testing of Special Wastes

Working to make our world better: One community at a time.
Rt. 2, Box 286, Wadesboro, NC 28170
Phone (704) 826-8116 fax 826-8151 email

November 29, 2000

Mr. Bill Meyer, Director
NC Division of Waste Management
410 Oberlin Rd, Suite 150
Raleigh, NC 27605

Mr. Meyer:

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League requests that the NC Division of Solid Waste cease the disposal of "Special Wastes" in NC Subtitle D landfills until adequate testing methods are developed and implemented that can adequately determine the hazards of the "Special Waste" streams. The North Carolina Division of Solid Waste is currently using flawed science to determine levels of contamination in the waste.

In 1996, EPA performed a study to determine the accuracy of the TCLP tests on solid waste. Their conclusions can be found in the EPA's Hazardous Waste Characteristics Scoping Study released in November 1996. BREDL is concerned that the TCLP does not take into account the air transport of dangerous contaminates.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League contends that major problems will arise at municipal solid waste sites largely due to the method NC allows to determine contamination levels in solid waste.

Recently BREDL has been reviewing waste determination files from the Piedmont Landfill in Kernersville, NC. BREDL has numerous concerns about this practice of detoxifying hazardous constituents on paper.

Many of the waste determination files were incomplete and lack data such as
1. Generators USEPA/Federal ID #
2. A waste analysis
3. Some were unreadable
4. In the reference to Four Seasons Environmental disposing cement kiln dust, one must and should ask, was this dust from a kiln that was fired by chlorinated solvents. If so the analysis should be much broader to include dioxin and furans. One would not be able to tell since that question is not answered on the form.

*Dates for requests for disposal do not match the dates of analysis.

1. In particular, if you look at waste determination form from Four Seasons dated 5/99; the analysis was performed 3/19/96. This request was for disposal of cement kiln dust, petroleum sludge, plastic, metal, and concrete? Ash can vary.

2. Duke Power Company submitted a waste determination form for disposal of non-PCB oil contaminated dirt and debris from a spill clean up. The concern is that the waste analysis was done in 7/96 and the request for disposal was 2/99. It is a known fact that some compounds can change and become more dangerous with time. Why is there such a lapse in the date from when it was sampled to the actual disposal date? The request also says the estimated annual volume varies and would be shipped at frequencies that would vary. It does not tell you how often and for how long the waste would be dumped in the landfill.

The current system for waste determination relies greatly on the honesty and complete testing and evaluation by the generator. The present waste determination does no more than allow waste companies to say, we asked. There are no guarantees that the public's health and the environment are being protected. This whole practice is allowing the fox to watch the hen house. Does the Division need to be reminded about how the self-monitoring failed at Carolina Solite?

EPA's Hazardous Waste Characteristics Scoping Study identified major gaps in hazardous waste protection. This Scoping Study shows clearly that the current RCRA program needs to cover new hazardous wastes that are currently unregulated. Most of the EPA's methods for determining which wastes are hazardous were adopted in the early 1980's, and both science and industry have advanced since then. The Scoping Study found that the tests and criteria used to determine if wastes are ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic do not consider very important factors leading to under-inclusive results.

EPA's regulations require use of the Toxic Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) to identify wastes that are regulated for toxicity. Not all toxic chemicals that could be identified in a TCLP test are considered. In fact, of the hundreds of toxic chemicals that are used by industry, only 43 are subject to the TCLP test. If those 43 specific chemicals are not found, but other dangerous toxic chemicals are actually in the waste, the waste is not regulated under RCRA and can be sent to municipal dumps and municipal incinerators. Most importantly, the Scoping Study concluded that the toxicity characteristic, which currently applies to only 43 chemical compounds, fails to address hundreds of toxic chemicals that can cause a waste to be hazardous.

The Scoping Study also found that the TCLP underestimates leaching from high alkaline wastes, oily wastes, and some paint wastes. The test fails to accurately mimic conditions commonly found in nonhazardous industrial waste landfills and does not accurately predict long-term mobility of organic contaminants in some treated wastes.

Another major concern is that the toxicity characteristic only addresses the health risks from drinking water contamination. Chemicals that are toxic through inhalation or would contaminate surface waters including as persistent and bioaccumulative toxics are not captured by the TCLP. The Study notes that groundwater-modeling techniques used to set the TC levels present information on risk through surface water and indirect pathways, respectively.

The significant defects in the regulations to properly determine if wastes are ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic has lead to wastes that are actually hazardous being managed as nonhazardous. For example, as to ignitability, the Study found that the present criteria are under-inclusive because the EPA regulations exclude Department of Transportation combustible liquids (liquids with flash point above 140 but below 200 degrees) and aqueous flammable liquids (alcohol solutions of concentrations less than 24 percent). The regulations also reference outdated DOT Regulations and provide no test method for non-liquids.

As to the corrosivity characteristic, the Study notes gaps exist because there is no test for solids. Nor does any test address corrosion of non-steel materials. There are also questions noted in the report concerning the inherent limitations of the pH test for corrosivity.

Finally, as to the reactivity characteristic, the study finds gaps due to the lack of specificity in the narrative definition of reactivity as well as its references to outdated DOT regulations.

The study also looked at Nonhazardous Industrial Waste Facilities; facilities that are not suppose to receive hazardous wastes. The study revealed:

Over 98% of the releases from these "nonhazardous" facilities involved groundwater contamination exceeding federal or state standards or regulations;
The contaminants included chemicals currently regulated as hazardous under RCRA, suggesting the current regulations are inadequate to prevent wastes that are hazardous from being sent to inappropriate landfills -- landfills that are leaking.

Of greatest significance is EPA's finding that over 100 chemicals may occur in wastes disposed in so-called "nonhazardous" industrial waste landfills that can pose significant risks. Yet these chemicals are not regulated as hazardous under the present characteristics. These chemicals include volatile, nonvolatile organics, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and pesticides that may cause cancer or birth defects. A significant number of these chemicals are among the Top 50 Toxic Release Inventory Chemicals released to the environment in quantities exceeding many millions of pounds per year. So far, EPA has all but ignored its own study.

2. Air Characteristic Study

More than a year after finding serious gaps in RCRA's protection of human health and the environment from the risks of hazardous wastes, EPA issued its Air Characteristic Study.

Eight years ago the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed municipal solid waste landfills as a hazardous air pollutant source. The Air Characteristics Study examined the potential inhalation risks to humans from certain types of waste management practices with the intent of identifying the need for classifying certain chemicals as hazardous if they threaten the air we breathe. Of the 105 chemicals investigated, EPA found that 83 chemicals were currently not regulated as hazardous by the Toxicity Characteristic; 21 of the chemicals were not regulated by either RCRA or by the Clean Air Act. EPA found that even for those chemicals with regulatory limits, a significant number of chemicals pose risks at levels below the current standards, suggesting that these current standards are not stringent enough.

With the evident concerns cited in both the Hazardous Waste Characteristic Scoping Study and the Air Characteristic Study, the over 1 billion pounds plus of releases in 1995 of the over 100 chemicals in the Scoping Study not regulated under the RCRA hazardous characteristics should be a top priority for NC Division of Solid Waste and EPA.

BREDL has the following questions:

1. What changes do you envision to protect and verify true limits of compounds in the waste streams currently falling into the category that requires waste determination before disposal?

2. What steps does NC Division of Solid Waste plan to take to correct the gaps posed by the current TCLP tests for waste characterization?

3. What steps does NC Division of Solid Waste plan to take in order to assure that all routes of exposure are considered before allowing dangerous material dumped in NC's communities?

4. How timely can the NC Division of Waste Management enact an effective testing protocol for "Special Wastes".


Denise Lee