June 20, 1989


Subject:  Boston Harbor

From:     William Sanjour and Hugh B. Kaufman

To:         William K. Reilly, Administrator

The U.S. EPA regional office in Boston and the Massachusetts Water Resource Administration (MWRA) have come up with a so-called plan to clean up the notorious Boston harbor. We think you should be aware that this plan is contrary to everything this agency is supposed to stand for. EPA is supposed to reduce pollution. Instead, this plan allows polluters to continue to dump over a ton a day of toxic wastes into the Boston sewers. The plan then calls for the people of Massachusetts to pay over six billion dollars to build sewage treatment plants which will transfer the toxic laden wastes from Boston harbor to food supplies in Texas and Florida and to dumps in suburban Boston which will inevitably pollute drinking water supplies.

The largest polluter of the Boston sewer system is the Polaroid Corporation. Some of the other well known companies which dump toxic chemicals and petroleum into the Boston sewer and Boston harbor include; Proctor & Gamble, Monsanto, Raytheon, Gillette, Honeywell, TRW, Hewlit Packard, General Electric, The U.S. Army, GTE, General Motors, Exxon, The Boston Globe, and BASF.

A federal court has ordered the State to stop dumping its sewage sludge into the harbor. Under the clean Water Act, the EPA Boston regional office and the MWRA have the mandate and the authority to require these polluters to eliminate or significantly reduce their toxic discharges. If this were done, the resultant sewage sludge would be free of toxic chemicals and could safely be used as fertilizer. But instead, the plan allows the polluters to continue to pollute. The federal and state authorities in Massachusetts apparently have no stomach for regulating big corporations.

As a result, their plan calls for over six billion dollars worth of sewage treatment to produce a sludge contaminated with toxic chemicals. If the authorities had done the job they are being paid by the taxpayers to do, that is regulating polluters, the cost to the taxpayers would be much less than the planned six billion dollars.

This sludge is too filthy to be used as fertilizer under Massachusetts law. It is too filthy for all of New England and New York. It falls far short of the standards that EPA proposed in February under section 405 of the Clean Water Act. The reaction of these agencies to these facts is shocking. These agencies, charged with protecting the environment, ignore the proposed federal regulations and proceed to shop around for states with weak environmental laws where they can market their contaminated sludge as fertilizer. They have focused in on the southeast and on Texas and Florida in particular.

This is the kind of irresponsible behavior one associates with some of the worst polluters. It is incomprehensible when practiced by government environmental protection agencies.

Furthermore, the plan provides that any sludge which cannot be marketed (which is likely to be most of it) will be dumped in a landfill the MWRA is proposing to set up in Walpole, Massachusetts. This has caused considerable consternation among the citizens of Walpole and adjacent Norfolk. They have a legitimate concern about pollution of their groundwater, which they depend on for their drinking water, and for nearby streams and lakes.

However, the EPA regional office and the MWRA have not been moved by the citizens concerns. They may be too timid to stop Polaroid and other big corporations from discharging toxic wastes but they do have the courage to face down the citizens of Walpole and Norfolk and to dump Polaroid's waste in their back yard.

In trying to con the public into accepting the landfill, the environmental impact statement prepared by the EPA regional office contains such egregious statements as:

Escape of leachate to the soil beneath the lined area should not be expected for a properly operated and maintained double-lined landfill that is capped after filling of each cell.
The occurrence of an undetected and thus, unrepaired, leak in the proposed Walpole MCI landfill liner system would be unlikely.

... there would be sufficient time for such a leak to be detected and corrective action to be taken.

... any leak which did occur in the landfill liner could be quickly repaired...
A properly designed and executed monitoring plan would detect any landfill leaks in sufficient time to remediate any groundwater contamination before significant impacts occurred...
Our experience and knowledge of landfills goes back more than a decade. Mr. Sanjour was formerly Chief of the [EPA] Hazardous Waste Assessment and Technology Branch where he supervised studies of the damages done by hazardous waste disposal and the technology for disposing of hazardous wastes.  Mr. Kaufman is a senior hazardous waste management specialist and former chief investigator of hazardous sites [at EPA]. Both of us have written articles and have given expert testimony in Congress and in the courts on this subject.

We have heard lies, like those quoted above, many times by landfill promoters trying to con a gullible public. Every year seems to bring a new crop of hustlers for the latest in state-of-the-art landfills, "guaranteed not to leak", only to have their landfills end up on the "Superfund" list or undergoing "corrective action" a few years later. We are chagrined to see EPA engaged in this con.

Neither EPA nor the Congress of the United States shares the Boston EPA regional office's high opinion of the reliability of landfill technology. As you know, Congress has such a low opinion of landfills that they passed legislation which greatly restricts their use. In passing that legislation, the House Report contains the following admonition for you, the Administrator of EPA:

The Committee reiterates its intention that land disposal be used principally as a last resort.
The following factors are to be considered by the Administrator in determining whether one or more methods of land disposal may not be protective of human health and the environment:...
the design and management uncertainties involving the long-term inability of liners and leachate collection systems to prevent water migration from the facility,
the uncertainties associated with ground water monitoring,...
The philosophy of both the Hazardous and Solid Wastes Amendments of 1984 and section 405 of the Clean Water Act is that you cannot rely on "gimmicks" such as liners and leachate collection systems and monitoring systems to protect groundwater from the toxic wastes dumped in the ground. Rather the waste itself must be rendered incapable of polluting the groundwater before it is dumped.

EPA was supposed to have issued standards under section 405 more than ten years ago. They were only first proposed last February. It will be many more years before they are finalized. The proposed Walpole landfill does not meet the proposed EPA standards but the EPA regional office can ignore that too because the standards aren't final.

The citizens of Walpole and Norfolk, Massachusetts are, therefore, the victims of EPA's failure to live up to it's responsibilities in two respects; it's failure to require Boston's industrial polluters to meet reasonable pre-treatment standards, and it's failure to issue sewage sludge regulations under section 405.

They are not the only victims. Every taxpayer in Massachusetts is subsidizing the industrial polluters and they may have to pay millions more to clean up the Walpole landfill in the very likely event that it leaks and pollutes the groundwater. The people of Texas and Florida may also be victims if contaminated Boston sludge is used as fertilizer in their states.

It is EPA's job to prevent pollution, not to pass it on and spread it around.

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