INTERNATIONAL: Europe Revs Up Its Pursuit Of A Hazwaste Solution

Decision Strategies International

Like the United States, Europe has a legacy of mismanaged hazardous wastes. Across the continent, however, countries are now accelerating their efforts to protect the environment and the population from these wastes.

Albania, to the east, reportedly has been the primary dumping ground for pesticides. Experts found 3,600 metric tons at 150 sites scattered throughout the country, according to Der Tag-esspiegel.

The pesticides, predominantly from European Union (EU) and World Bank supplies, were intended for application, but at least 560 metric tons of the material were unsuitable for use. At last report, Germany and the members of the EU were considering clean-up programs.

To the west of Europe, Spain's autonomous Basque region completed a hazardous wastes management plan in 1993. The same year, this heavily industrialized re-gion generated nearly 538,000 metric tons of hazwastes, according to MullMagazin. The region also im-ports metal-containing hazardous wastes from the EU, as well as scouring acid, used oil and oil emulsions from other Spanish regions.

Of the total hazardous wastes generated in the Basque region, 52 percent were processed for recovery and 20 percent were treated or disposed, though not always in strict adherence to environmental standards.

The remaining 28 percent - in-cluding halogenated solvents, used oil, flyash from steel mills, slag from secondary aluminum smelting and wastes from galvanization - remained untreated.

In the early 1980s, the Basque region's initiatives to plan and construct a state-run hazardous wastes center failed when various organizations resisted and some private treatment facilities opened. The new plan adheres to the EU hierarchy: waste prevention, recovery/recycling and disposal. It also applies the principles of producer liability, treatment and disposal close to the source, integrated solutions and multi-party participation, MullMagazin reported.

To help build a complete inventory, the hazwastes generator must now report quantities of more than 10 metric tons per year. The new infrastructure, based on an analysis of best-available technologies, will include biological processes, chemical-physical treatment, limited incineration, solidification, se-cure landfills and "soft technologies" that render the wastes less hazardous.

This year, in the Dutch city of Dordrecht, a plant will come on line to treat a range of hazardous industrial residues from Rotterdam and northern Belgium. It will process approximately 30,000 metric tons per year according to specifications for fuel in cement kilns, power stations, blast furnaces and other combustion facilities.

Reportedly among the most modern of its kind, the plant complies with EU legislation, which permits heat recovery from hazwastes as long as specified calorific values are met.

Similar to the events in the U-nited States, trends in Germany show hazwastes generation declining as disposal costs soar and low-waste technologies spread. A stagnating economy also is a factor.

For the quantities that remain to be managed, one approach is re-gional and interstate cooperation. For example, the state of Hesse sends land-disposable hazardous wastes to Baden-Wurttemberg in exchange for combustible haz-wastes for processing in its incinerator.

In the future, salt mines and caverns will increasingly be used as disposal sites, according to Abfall-wirtschaftsJournal. Mine shafts can accommodate bulk or containerized hazwastes, and mines allow wastes to be stored separately and then retrieved during the operations phase. At one site, for example, transformers with PCB-contaminated oils are stored in anticipation of future recycling technologies.

However, salt caverns offer great-er security due to their narrow ac-cess borings, and can be used for flyash, excavated soils, sludges and other bulk wastes (see figure).

But Germany has experienced its share of problems. In one incident, a trendy house development near Frankfurt was built on what turned out to be the site of a former solder factory. Part of the site was found to be highly contaminated by solvents and by heavy metal concentrations of up to 500 grams per ki-logram of soil.

Clean-up activities in 1992 in-cluded excavating the contaminated soil to a depth of four meters, hauling 6,000 metric tons to a special landfill and replacing it with clean soil. In addition, approximately 150 kilograms of chlorinated solvents were suctioned out of the deeper layers. Since the re-sponsible party could not be made to pay, the state of Hesse settled the bill of approximately $4.7 million.