Oregon landfill accepted 2 million pounds of radioactive fracking waste from North Dakota

Oregon landfill accepted 2 million pounds of radioactive fracking waste from North Dakota

SOURCE: Oregon Live DATE: February 14, 2020 SNIP: A chemical waste landfill near the Columbia Gorge has been accepting hundreds of tons of radioactive fracking waste from North Dakota in violation of Oregon regulations. Oregon Department of Energy officials issued a “notice of violation” to Chemical Waste Management’s landfill near the small town of Arlington on Thursday for accepting a total of 2 million pounds of Bakken oil field waste that was delivered by rail in 2016, 2017 and 2019. With landfill officials’ permission, Oilfield Waste Logistics of Culbertson, Mont., dumped the waste, some of which registered radium at 300 times the state’s limits. On average, the waste registered radium at 140 picocuries per gram, according to Jeff Burright, a state nuclear waste remediation specialist. The state’s maximum level for waste stored at Arlington is 5 picocuries, he said. Energy Department regulators said the landfill won’t be fined for accepting the radioactive waste because they believe landfill operators misunderstood state guidelines and weren’t aware of the violations, said Ken Niles, assistant director for nuclear safety. He said the agency can only fine companies – ranging from $60 to $500 a day – under certain circumstances. Fines can be levied if a violator had previously been notified of a violation and repeated it or did something similar. The department also fines companies for willful violations or violations that result in “significant adverse impacts” to humans or the environment. Niles said none of those issues applied in the case of Chemical Waste Management. Regulators said they determined the biggest risks would be if the waste were ingested or inhaled, if people...
The mattress landfill crisis: how the race to bring us better beds led to a recycling nightmare

The mattress landfill crisis: how the race to bring us better beds led to a recycling nightmare

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 12, 2020 SNIP: Mike Scollick and Richard Allsopp are talking about the worst things they ever found in a mattress. “We had one where I think a dog had been lying on it, and the whole thing was just jumping with fleas,” Allsopp says, shuddering. No one would touch it, so they had to use a cherry picker to move it. But that’s not the worst of it, Scollick says: “I stripped the cover off one once and it looked like somebody …” “Died,” interjects Allsopp. It’s fair to say you need a strong stomach to be in the mattress recycling game. Which Scollick and Allsopp have, along with several million pounds’ worth of equipment in their Coventry warehouse. I have come to see Circom, their mattress recycling firm, at work. It’s a dirty but noble enterprise: Circom is one of only a handful of recyclers tackling the UK’s ever-growing mattress problem. The UK threw away more than 7m mattresses in 2017, the vast majority of which went straight to landfill. Zero Waste Scotland has estimated that if the 600,000 mattresses Scotland throws away every year were stacked on top of each other, the pile would be more than 100 times taller than Ben Nevis. Flytipping is another huge area of concern: English councils spend £58m a year on clear-up, with mattresses among the most commonly illegally dumped items. According to the National Bed Fedderation (NBF), only about 19% of mattresses are recycled. The reason? They are a nightmare to recycle – it’s the springs. “They’re a machine killer,” says Scollick. And it’s not...
Penguins’ plastic peril: Scientists warn of growing threat to endangered birds from toxic fibres polluting the ocean

Penguins’ plastic peril: Scientists warn of growing threat to endangered birds from toxic fibres polluting the ocean

SOURCE: Sunday Post DATE: February 10, 2020 SNIP: A study in Antarctic has found that over three quarters of the penguins surveyed in South Georgia had microfibres in their stomachs. Smaller than a baby’s fingernail, and often coated in toxic chemicals, they can lodge in a bird’s stomach, and as they break down into even smaller nanoparticles, wreak havoc throughout the body. Until recently it was believed that the Antarctic, protected by the Circumpolar Current flowing eastward around the uninhabited continent, was a haven from the menace. The island is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of King Penguins, with around 100,000 pairs, and was praised by Sir David Attenborough as one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. Standing over three feet tall, the birds raise just one chick every two years, and have a striking patch of orange-gold feathers on their neck. Lead researcher Camille Le Guen from St Andrews University, who spent over two months on the island, said: “The seas are suffering from climate change, and over-fishing. Plastic pollution is an added and growing threat. “The Southern Ocean was supposed to be the cleanest ocean in the world – but maybe this is not such an isolated place after all. “The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is like a semi-barrier for microfibres, but once they manage to get in, they are stuck because of that current and then they will accumulate.” She added: “We found 77% of birds had microfibres in their diet, birds with chicks and even non-breeding birds.” And almost 300m tonnes of plastic debris are estimated to be floating at sea surface...
10 US oil refineries exceeding limits for cancer-causing benzene, report finds

10 US oil refineries exceeding limits for cancer-causing benzene, report finds

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 6, 2020 SNIP: At least 10 US oil refineries have been emitting cancer-causing benzene above the federal government’s limits, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project. The group reviewed a year of air monitoring data recorded at the fence lines of 114 refineries, as reported to the Environmental Protection Agency. The facilities are not breaking the law, but they are required by EPA to analyze the causes of the emissions and try to reduce them. Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said while some refineries have made improvements, others are still releasing benzene at harmful rates. “Benzene comes with elevated cancer risk but also lots of non-cancer issues that are harder to quantify,” Schaeffer said. People can get sick from low levels in the long term or high levels in the short term. Benzene is just one of multiple dangerous pollutants emitted by refineries – which turn oil into gasoline and other products. Studies have shown the populations living around refineries – often people of color and low-income families – to have worse asthma and other respiratory problems. Benzene harms cell processes. It can keep bone marrow from producing enough red blood cells and can damage the immune system and increase the risk of infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Over the long term, benzene exposure causes other problems, including cancer, according to the Department of Human Health and Services. The highest-emitting refinery, the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Pennsylvania, shut down in June after erupting in explosions and fires. It was polluting benzene at five...
Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills

Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: February 5, 2020 SNIP: A wind turbine’s blades can be longer than a Boeing 747 wing, so at the end of their lifespan they can’t just be hauled away. First, you need to saw through the lissome fiberglass using a diamond-encrusted industrial saw to create three pieces small enough to be strapped to a tractor-trailer. The municipal landfill in Casper, Wyoming, is the final resting place of 870 blades whose days making renewable energy have come to end. The severed fragments look like bleached whale bones nestled against one another. “That’s the end of it for this winter,” said waste technician Michael Bratvold, watching a bulldozer bury them forever in sand. “We’ll get the rest when the weather breaks this spring.” Tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills. In the U.S. alone, about 8,000 will be removed in each of the next four years. Europe, which has been dealing with the problem longer, has about 3,800 coming down annually through at least 2022, according to BloombergNEF. It’s going to get worse: Most were built more than a decade ago, when installations were less than a fifth of what they are now. Built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the blades can’t easily be crushed, recycled or repurposed. That’s created an urgent search for alternatives in places that lack wide-open prairies. In the U.S., they go to the handful of landfills that accept them, in Lake Mills, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Casper, where they will be interred in stacks that reach...