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article imageDeepwater Horizon oil spill waste being land-filled

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 29, 2010 in Environment
It looks as if the worst of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill is over, and now all that is left to do is clean up the mess and tally the destruction the spill caused for wildlife and businesses.
Now that the worst of the spill appears to be quelled, people are starting to ask questions about aspects of the oil spill that were not as important when the gusher was spewing oil madly into the Gulf of Mexico. In June, some communities raised a concern that the waste associated with the clean-up of the spill might end up in landfills. But those concerns did not receive much play in the media, which was much more concerned with storeis of BP blocking media access to the spill, among other related stories.
The disposal of oil spill waste is being supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the states of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, where the waste is being disposed of, according to a press release announcing a directive from the EPA.
CNN reported Wednesday that nine landfills in Mississippi are receiving the oil spill waste, but one community, Pecan Grove, is fighting the waste. WLOX reported that the waste has been tested and is "safe for disposal."
In spite of assurances from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality that the waste is safe, residents who live near the landfill say they don't want the waste, WLOX reported last week.
WLOX reported an estimated 1,200 tons of oil spill waste has been disposed of in the landfill. After County supervisors complained about not being consulted about the use of the dump, Waste Management Inc., the company that owns the dump, said it would temporarily halt landfill disposal until negotiations had been concluded. CNN said those negotiations were to begin Thursday. County supervisors have threatened to obtain a legal injunction against Waste Management to stop the disposal of BP spill materials.
Waste Management Inc. said it was brought on board by BP in May to dispose of the waste. The company stressed the waste had been classified as "non-hazardous."
The word in the blogosphere, however, is that predominantly black communities were chosen to landfill the oil spill waste. However, according to Wikipedia, the majority of the population of Harrison County, where the Pecan Grove landfill is situated, is white.
Even though the EPA Waste Management Plan for the oil spill states on page 11 that landfilling waste is the "least preferred" method, it appears that most of the oil spill waste is being dumped into landfill sites. The Crestview Bulletin reported that in Florida, Waste Management was landfilling the oil spill waste, which was mixing with the regular waste stream.
The information reveals a strange schism in EPA regulations. The Crestview Bulletin reached a Florida EPA spokeswoman who told them “The oil spill materials and the mixture of oil and cleanup debris are not regulated as hazardous waste." The paper goes on to cite a 2002 EPA document that states "Waste associated with oil and natural gas exploration and production is exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations. In general, the exempt status of an E&P waste depends on how the material was used or generated as waste, not necessarily whether the material is hazardous or toxic."
The New York Times has questioned why the same crude oil from the Deepwater spill could be classed as hazardous when in the water and on the shores, but categorized as non-hazardous when it is "waste." Journalist Elana Schor quoted a former Environmental liaison who worked with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office in that capacity for 20 years as saying "It might not be listed as hazardous material, [but] any oil is going to be hazardous. I don't care what the regulations say."
A Florida paper, The Ledger ran an Associated Press article that had found incidents where Waste Management Inc. had not handled Deepwater spill waste materials properly in Alabama, reminding the public that Waste Management Inc. has not had a very good track record over the past thirty years of operations.
Earth First has accused Waste Management Inc. of toxic spills and illegal dumping, citing the University of Michigan.
Tellingly, the company has faced a number of lawsuits in the past; for allegedly dumping toxic materials, insider trading, and unpaid overtime. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has compiled a long list of offenses.
More about Deepwater horizon, Oil spill waste, Waste oil collectors inc
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