Six months after Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner announced her new hazardous waste policy aimed at waste reduction, treatment technologies and pollution prevention, private firms have stepped forward with solutions to hazardous waste disposal problems.
Last May the EPA chief called for:
* An overhaul of federal rules on waste combustion and a search for alternative treatment technologies;
* A call to hazardous waste producers to commit to waste reduction programs; and
* New requirements for full-risk assessments at hazardous waste treatment and storage sites.
In July, the agency's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) completed a report on innovative cleanup technologies, as well as markets for those technologies; Cleaning up the Nation's Waste Sites: Markets and Technology Trends. The report found that few technologies exist to treat inorganics, and that most cleanup programs are complicated common contaminants, such as solvents, petroleum products and metals.
The most common contaminants to be cleaned up over the next three to five years will be volatile organic compounds (VOCs), commonly found at 60 percent of sites; metals at 53 percent of sites and semi-volatile organic compounds, found at 27 percent of sites.
One company, Controls for Environmental Pollution Inc. (CEP), Santa Fe, N.M., is working to extract and identify VOCs in fish - a useful means for determining if leachate from hazardous waste sites is contaminating ponds, lakes or rivers. CEP used a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer system to identify volatiles within the fish tissue. The analytical laboratory reportedly was the first laboratory to successfully identify volatiles among pollutants in fish taken from a river near a hazardous waste site on the East Coast.
The company tested more than 200 fish for ethyl benzene, gasoline and other volatiles, and also for the presence of toxic compounds listed in EPA's Appendix IX, including pesticides, metals, herbicides, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and radionuclides.
The EPA released information on innovative hazardous waste treatment through a database known as the Vendor Information System for Innovative Treatment Technologies (VISITT), according to the organization's report on innovative technologies. VISITT is a free service.
Calgon Carbon Corp., Pittsburgh, has implemented a solution to waste reduction and pollution prevention by reactivating liquid and vapor phase-spent carbons from industrial and municipal applications. The company recently initiated carbon reactivation services at its plant in Blue Lake, Calif.
The Blue Lake facility began reactivating carbon after a six-month renovation and upgrading of the plant's reactivation equipment. As part of the renovation, the existing kiln and afterburner system was retrofitted with an upgraded combustion and product discharge system. A new water treatment system and wet scrubber were to be installed to abate emissions and treat off-gases from the facility.