In The News: Removing PCBs For The Long Haul
Happy Tuesday, ecoSPEARS readers! It’s that time of the week again which means we’re taking excerpts from last week’s environmental news you may not have seen and making sure you see it. Our three articles this week dive back into issues on PCB consumption and regulation. If you’ve been keeping up with our regular posts, we hope you’ll recognize some of the acronyms, locations, and names in this week’s news blurb.
The City of Ansonia, Connecticut last week agreed to pay $19,125 in settlements for improper handling of toxic materials. According to the EPA, the city offered some 500 gallons of PCB-contaminated oil to Connecticut Oil for transport from a city transfer station to an off-site storage and disposal facility. Connecticut Oil also agreed to settle for a payment of $32,397 in regard to violations for improper handling and regulations of PCB waste, as well as failure to prepare a hazardous waste manifest when they brought a larger shipment of PCB-contaminated oil, including the original amount from Ansonia, to a disposal facility in New Haven, CT.
City Hall of historic Ansonia, CT
Omissions from the contaminated oil meant that some 4,500 gallons of oil became unfit for recycling. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) states that PCB-contaminated oil must be classified and disposed of as regulated waste rather than recyclable waste. Both the municipality of Ansonia as well as the company Connecticut Oil have agreed to terms of the settlement with EPA and have taken voluntary motion to address their separate violations and comply with federal regulations as per TSCA and the EPA.
Our next article returns to an issue we’ve covered many times before but renews depending on location seemingly every other month. Last week, the Virginia Department of Health released an updated fish advisory urging citizens to limit or eschew consumption of fish caught in, along, or near the Roanoke River and other cited sources of known or possible PCB contamination in the state. VDH stated in its release, “Infants and children are particularly sensitive to the effects of PCBs since their nervous systems are still developing . PCBs also build up in women’s bodies and are often passed on in the mother’s milk. Therefore, VDH is recommending that high risk individuals, such as pregnant women, woman planning to be come pregnant, nursing mothers, infants, and young children should avoid eating PCB-contaminated fish from the advisory areas.”
The updated map of fish consumption advisories released by the VA Department of Health.
The fish consumption advisory map shown above highlights problem areas known or otherwise believed to be sources of PCB contamination. The largest concentration of PCB problem areas is at the center of the Chesapeake Bay – the waterway through and by which the English originally established colonies in 17th-century America. VDH also released a revised list of fish species currently on their advisory, with Carp and Flathead Catfish (lengths greater than 32in) under “do not eat” advisories and nearly two dozen other fish species advised to consumption limits of two per month.
The entire advisory and list can be found here.
Our last article for this week returns to Pittsfield, MA and the issue of PCB removal and disposal from the Housatonic River. Although mediation efforts at the site in question were unable to reach a median earlier this year, EPA Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn claims mediation remains the best and quickest way to expedite the removal and disposal of contamination along the Housatonic. “Can reasonable minds sit down and talk things through? Is there something else that can be done…in a way that is satisfactory to everyone?” If not, Dunn said PCBs may remain in the Housatonic for another five years or longer until the situation can be readdressed.
“The Lane Construction parcel runs parallel to the Housatonic River south of Woods Pond in Lenox and extends to Lee. This is one of three local sites that General Electric has identified as possible places to dump PCB tainted sediment dredged from the Housatonic River.”
Dunn visited the Berkshire region where citizens expressed concern to the notion of local PCB dumping rather than out-of-state disposal of PCBs from the Housatonic. Again, Dunn vocalized the position of mediation as a form to find agreeable middle ground for all parties involved in the river’s cleanup. “Perfection is the enemy of making progress on the environment…there are rarely perfect solutions.” Dunn went on to say that she believes the cleanup project along the Housatonic will move forward as citizens said they wish to continue to work and align with the EPA in regard to PCB removal from the site.
That’s all for news highlight this week, readers! Be sure to check back tomorrow for our bi-weekly blog post where we take a more focused look into the methods and regulations surrounding PCB removal and disposal. We hope our next post will help you, your community, and others better understand the lengthy and complex process of contaminated waste disposal so that you, like Berkshire citizens, can best align with the EPA to work together on cleaning our waterways.
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