February 26, 1982

Mrs. Lois Gibbs
P.O. Box 7097
Arlington, VA 22207

Dear Mrs. Gibbs:

In response to your inquiry about citizens fears regarding hazardous waste new technology state-of-the-art landfills, I have drawn up what in my personal opinion is a good analogy of the situation.

Suppose there was an airplane manufacturer who had a long history of making planes that crashed. And suppose he came out with a new model which he claimed was "state-of-the-art" and guaranteed not to crash. But suppose you found out that no insurance company would insure the plane. And suppose you further found out that the airplane manufacturer had been lobbying Congress for years and has succeeded in getting a law passed that "in the event even today's best state-of-the-art technology does manage to fail sometime in the future" the aircraft manufacturer could not be held responsible. In addition, suppose there was an independent study of some of the few such planes actually flying and they were found to have cracks in them. Would you fly the plane?

Well the people who manage hazardous waste have a long history of building landfills that leak and pollute and endanger public health. (80% of the EPA list of the 115 priority sites for "superfund" clean-up were legitimate hazardous waste landfills.) Nevertheless industry spokesmen say that today's high technology state-of-the-art hazardous waste landfills bear no more relationship to those old chemical dumps than a modern office building bears to a tarpaper shack. In spite of this, no insurance company will insure these state-of-the-art facilities. And the hazardous waste management industry lobbied Congress for years until it got legislation which five years after closure, transfers liability for the landfill to the taxpayer and removes the citizens right to sue the landfill operator for damages. Furthermore, a recent study at Princeton University of four new state-of-the-art hazardous waste landfills in New Jersey shows evidence of leakage.

Is it therefore unreasonable for the public to be wary about such landfills?

Very truly yours,
William Sanjour

Chief, Hazardous Waste Implementation Branch
Office of Solid Waste

William Sanjour's home page

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