A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200 MARCH 1996
Background: On Dec. 23, 1982, the Center for Disease Control and the Missouri Division of Health recommended that the entire town of Times Beach be evacuated due to dioxin contamination. This recommendation led to a complete buy-out of the town by the U.S. government. Dioxin-laced waste oil was sprayed, as a dust-control measure, on the towns unpaved roads in the early 1970s. In the next issue of Waste Not, we will report on the history of the American tragedy that took place in Missouri.
Report by Fred Striley*
On March 15, 1996, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave final approval for Syntex Agribusiness -a subsidiary of the Swiss company Hoffman-Roche --to eliminate its liability for contamination of at least 27 dioxin-contaminated sites by issuing the final RCRA operating permit for an incinerator at Times Beach in St. Louis County, Missouri. The story behind this permit is one of pathological public deception leaving citizens no apparent alternative to litigation.
Incineration was selected by EPA as the remedy for Syntexs liability problem in a 1988 Record of Decision. Because of intense public opposition to incineration at that time, Syntex, EPA and MDNR negotiated a secret deal, leaving out local community representation and ignoring an overwhelming opposing vote in a St. Louis County referendum. This deal, when signed by a federal judge, became a Consent Decree in 1990. Thereafter, the three parties to the agreement could claim that they were bound by a court order, local officials could say there was nothing they could do and local opposition temporarily folded. With 1993 news from Jacksonville, Arkansas, of the Vertac Superfund incinerators failure to comply with federal law requiring a 99.9999% destruction/removal efficiency (DRE) for dioxin, residents of St. Louis County again began to question the decision to burn dioxin contaminated soil at Times Beach. Many of the questions raised remained unanswered as the permit was issued.
Citizens groups have engaged in critical reviews of Syntexs application for a RCRA permit, the EPAs risk assessment, the construction and testing permit, and reports of the test burn. They have questioned and commented extensively. They applied for an EPA Technical Assistance Grant to hire technical advisors to review the documents and the technical advisors recommended that the incinerator not be permitted. The citizens have found no answer to the fundamental question: Will this incinerator endanger our health? Although the EPA Project Manager Robert Feild, MDNR Director David Shorr, Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan and Syntex Project Manager Gary Pendergrass all claim the answer is No, consider the following:
* According to EPA Attorney Martha Steinkamp, the 27 dioxin sites were never sampled for any furans or congeners of dioxin other than 2,3,7,8-TCDD.
* Despite sampling data that shows PCB contamination at dangerous levels, EPA did not provide PCB sampling data to its risk assessment contractor; thus the risk assessment does not even consider the risk from incineration of PCBs and several other toxic chemicals.
* EPAs risk assessment also failed to include products of incomplete combustion, fugitive emissions, dermal exposure, ground water contamination/exposure.
* Employees of at least one laboratory involved in the sampling of Times Beach soil in the early 1980s were convicted of falsifying data.
* As in Jacksonville, Arkansas, Syntex used surrogate chemicals to demonstrate the 99.9999% DRE required by federal law - not dioxin.
* These surrogates were not mixed into soil being fed into the incinerator during test burns as suggested by EPA guidance; they were placed on the feed belt in plastic bags; i.e., they were fed at 100% concentration, thus maximizing the DRE achieved.
* The RCRA permit set a limit on dioxin emissions from the incinerators stack and a dioxin stack test (DST) was to be conducted by burning actual contaminated soil and measuring stack emissions; unfortunately, during this testing no measurement was made of the dioxin concentrations being fed into the incinerator; this means that no DRE can be calculated for dioxin.
* Although EPA claims that soil burned during the DST was from the most highly contaminated site (a truck yard), sampling data for the site shows that contamination for the vast majority of the site was below an industrial clean up level; in fact, based on the DST report it is impossible to know whether any dioxin was fed into the incinerator.
* The company who built and operates the incinerator, International Technologies (IT), also performed all testing during the test burns.
* ITs report on the DST indicated very low emissions for total dioxin toxic equivalents (TEQ) partly because they failed to follow EPA guidance for use of Estimated Maximum Potential Contaminant (EMPC) values; i.e., for every dioxin congener that was not detected, IT used zero as the TEQ value instead of half of the detection limit.
* ITs report also failed to consider that EPA research indicating that the sampling methodology used may only catch about 25% of stack emissions.
* During 24 hours of DST testing, 15 automatic waste-feed cut-offs occurred due to over-pressurization of the kiln; this condition can lead to the release of unburned contaminated material directly into the air and can greatly increase stack emissions; yet no stack emissions were measured during these events and even the kiln pressure was not reported.
* Although destruction of PCBs requires higher temperatures and longer residence times than those used at Times Beach, no stack measurements were made for PCBs during the DST.
* Although EPAs 1994 draft dioxin reassessment states that immune and reproductive system damage may already be occuring at the North American background dioxin level of 0.1 pg/m3, the acute action level for perimeter air monitors at Times Beach has been set 55 times higher than this background level and local residents were told in March of 1996 by Robert Feild of EPA that they could live with that level all their lives and not experience any adverse health effects.
* MDNR relies on the Missouri Department of Health (MDOH) for information about what is or is not safe; MDOH is conducting an exposure study on residents mostly-living upwind from the incinerator site and claims that less than a 25% increase in blood dioxin levels would not be cause of alarm.
Local residents have gathered thousands of petition signatures asking Governor Mel Carnahan to stop the Times Beach incinerator; they have protested and engaged in civil disobedience and they have asked questions that remain unanswered. Times Beach is in Congressman James Talents district. Congressman Talent actively opposed incineration at Times Beach and has received no response from EPA to his questions.
Citizens were forcibly removed from a public hearing when they were not being disruptive; they were not allowed to pass out literature at the same public hearing while Syntex was allowed to do so; and they have been denied the right to RCRA permit appeal.
In addition, lobbying by Syntex of St. Louis County officials has muted citizens dialogue with their local elected officials. Local citizens have been told by St. Louis County officials that newspaper articles are not an accurate source of information. Yet, Mr. Charles Daily, a St. Louis County Councilman seen repeatedly with Syntex representative Ron Waterman, has publicly questioned the credibility of citizens EPA approved technical advisor. According to Mr. Daily, he got his information from newspaper articles.
St. Louis County Executive George Westfall created a committee to monitor activities at the site. During Mr. Westfalls election campaigns he has been vigorously opposed to incineration at Times Beach. Betwen elections he has held various positions. At a March 5, 1996 meeting, Mr. Westfalls monitoring committee voted to recommend to St. Louis County that a required county air quality permit not be issued until questions raised by committee members were adequately answered by EPA, MDNR and Syntex. These questions were to be provided to the St. Louis County Department of Health director and monitoring committee chairman Richard Cavanaugh by March 15. By March 14, Mr. Cavanaugh had received at least 100 questions from committee members. On March 15, Mr. Cavanaughs agency issued an air quality permit for the Times Beach incinerator.
Times Beach must be the last hazardous waste incinerator built.
Local citizens groups have filed suit to stop the incinerator and desperately need your support:
Send a check or money order to: Citizens Against Dioxin Incineration, 50 Clarkson Center, Suite 493, Chesterfield, MO 63017.
Write to the following and demand that the Times Beach incinerator be shut down: U.S. EPA Administrator Carol Browner; President Bill Clinton; Vice President Al Gore; Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan
Write to your Congressman and Senators and ask for a congressional investigation about the mis-handling of soil sampling data, exclusion of PCBs & other contaminants from the risk assessment, violations of federal laws including Freedom of Information Act request.
*For more information on background issues contact Fred Striley, tel: 314-938-3504
For more information on the lawsuit, contact Tammy Shea, tel: 314-458-5026
Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, New York 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.