Heading to Texas, Hudson’s Toxic Mud Stirs Town: NY Times May 31, 2009
EUNICE, N.M. — There are not many towns in America that would welcome the 2.5 million cubic yards of toxic sludge being dredged from the bottom of the Hudson River in New York, but to hear Mayor Matt White tell it, Eunice is one of them.
Storing waste nobody else wants means more jobs, Mr. White said, and the oil workers here are used to living with hazards. After all, there are several oil wells in the town itself. One of them is a block from City Hall.
“We have deadly gases in the oil fields,” he said. “It’s more deadly than any of the stuff they are going to put in the ground out here.”
From the edge of town, one can see huge berms at the landfill where General Electric plans to bury the dried sludge that is tainted with 1.3 million pounds of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. They flowed into the upper Hudson from two G. E. factories for three decades before they were banned, in 1977. In high doses, the chemicals have been shown to cause cancer in animals and
are considered a probable carcinogen in people.
The landfill lies five miles away in Texas, right across the state line, and belongs to Harold C. Simmons, a Dallas billionaire who was a large campaign contributor to former President George W. Bush and Gov. Rick Perry. (He also helped finance the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race and the advertisements linking President Obama to William Ayers in 2008.)
Not only has Mr. Simmons’s company, Waste Control Specialists, landed a lucrative contract to take the Hudson River sludge to Texas, but this spring it won a permit from the state to store low-level radioactive waste as well.
Some environmentalists warn that the landfill is too near the giant Ogallala aquifer to store such hazardous materials, an assertion the company says is a lie. The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s office in Dallas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have sided with the company in the debate over the aquifer. But some confusion remains, and three state environmental officials have resigned in protest over granting the company permits for the radioactive waste.
A little closer to Eunice, just inside New Mexico, an international consortium is building a uranium enrichment plant, with the blessing of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
… many people in Eunice say the landfill and the enrichment plant were bringing new jobs into a local economy that used to be buffeted by the rise and fall of oil prices. Some even said they considered it a patriotic duty to accept the Hudson River waste, to help clean up America.
“We are not uncomfortable with it at all,” said Lynn White, a barber who publishes the local newspaper, Eunice News. “There is just not a whole lot to fear about the deal.”
Even without the landfill and the uranium plant, Eunice is hardly a garden spot.
For miles around the town, pump jacks bob their mechanical heads like great birds pecking the earth. Power lines run like stitches over the high plains scrubland to power the pumps. The air is sour from the gases emitted by the wells and by three natural gas plants in town.
“We already have chemicals in the air here,” said Rocio Araujo, 18, who works at a coffeehouse and said she did not mind the PCB plan because the waste disposal business had infused new money into the oil economy. Beatrice Fabela, a barista at the coffee shop, grimaced when asked about the sludge. “I just hope it doesn’t end up another Erin Brockovich story,” she said. “I didn’t know about that being there. It’s kind of scary to think about.”
Tom W. Jones III, a vice president of Waste Control Specialists, said the Hudson River sludge would be wrapped in heavy plastic, like a burrito, loaded onto open railcars and shipped to the landfill in trains at least 80 cars long. By the third year of the five-year plan, which has been approved by the E.P.A., two to three trains a week will arrive.
At the landfill, Mr. Jones said, excavators on platforms will rip open the bags and transfer the sludge to 110-ton mining trucks, starting in late June. The transfer will take place in a hangarlike building to shield the contaminated soil from the wind. The trucks will haul the sludge into a pit dug 75 feet into red clay and lined with two layers of heavy polyethylene. Then it will be covered over with at least three feet of clay.
Neil Carman, the director of the Lone Star Sierra Club, said the plan is fraught with dangers. A rail accident could spill contaminated soil along the route, and G. E. has so far refused to say what route the trains will take. Mr. Carman also said the winds whipping across the high plains of West Texas could spread the poisoned soil before it is buried.
“We could be a major public health concern and an environmental disaster if this should be spilled out,” he said.
“This is like a shell game, moving hazardous toxic PCBs from one sensitive location to another,” said Dr. Neil Carman, a chemist with Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter. “We are concerned about contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer and other aquifers in this dry region of Texas that needs to protect and conserve water for drinking and agricultural uses.”
The company that operates the landfill also recently won approval to dump radioactive waste there, intensifying the controversy surrounding the facility.
The $750 million Hudson River dredging project aims to scrape up almost 250,000 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, chemicals once used in electrical equipment that are known to build up in the body and cause cancer, damage the immune system and lead to reproductive disorders. The cleanup is being overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
FORT EDWARD, New York, May 19, 2009 (ENS) – The long awaited dredging of the Upper Hudson River to remove sediment contaminated by PCBs from a General Electric factory began Friday near Roger’s Island in Fort Edward.
The six-year dredging project will be conducted by General Electric under the terms of a November 2006 consent decree. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will oversee all aspects of the work; dredging will continue through October 2009, weather permitting.
The entire project will remove an estimated 1.8 million cubic yards of sediment and 113,000 kg of PCBs.
Sediment removed from the river will be carried by barge to a dewatering facility located on the Champlain Canal in Fort Edward. There water will be squeezed from the sediment and treated to drinking water standards before being returned to the canal.
The remaining PCB-laden dirt will be loaded onto railcars for disposal at a permitted landfill facility in Andrews County, Texas.
The 1,338 acre treatment, storage and disposal facility operated by Waste Control Specialists in Andrews County is licensed for the processing, storage and disposal of a broad range of hazardous and toxic waste as well as low-level and mixed low-level radioactive waste.
Under CERCLA and SARA, the EPA is given the authority and resources to clean up hazardous waste sites. EPA’s priority is to identify responsible parties—those companies that have caused contamination—and require them to clean up, at their own expense, any corresponding hazardous waste sites. EPA thus reserves the use of Superfund monies for sites in which responsible parties are not identified or have claimed bankruptcy.
Does anyone remember “Superfund“? WIKI sez: That is the common name for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), a United States federal law designed to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites. Superfund provides broad federal authority to clean up releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. The law authorized
I don’t remember voting to authorize transporting deadly toxins across Texas, then digging a hole to dump it in … so much social tripe has grabbed headlines for so long, it is way too easy to slip hazardous contracts past Texas voters. Texas has enough deadly toxins, including some of its toxic elected officials and their friends who brush off legitimate concern by calling the stuff BURRITO, really now.
Dallas Morning News: The city’s richest person is now Harold C. Simmons, thanks to a nifty $3.1 billion growth in his net worth last year, as reported in the current Forbes magazine.
At $7.4 billion, Mr. Simmons’ net worth leapfrogged that of Electronic Data Systems Corp. founder H. Ross Perot ($4.4 billion) and Robert Rowling ($6.4 billion), owner of the Omni Hotels chain.