Waste (Material) Management

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Editorial: There is an issue, now moving into the Supreme Court, that challenges the environmental laws on the basis of cost.

 Business interests argue that costs of anti-pollution measures should be part of the discussion. The legislation has not contained any attention to the cost aspects.

As a former project engineer in an oil refinery, this writer was closely associated with anti-pollution measures and was aware of political and environmental landscape at that time, in the 1960's. There are two costs, mainly, to business: (1) the capital cost of the installation of anti-pollution equipment and (2) the added cost of operating the new processes. Overlooked in the analysis is that there may be savings effected and further, in many cases, saving so large that the anti-pollution gear actually generates an excellent return on investment.

That part of the argument should appeal to business interests.

 In one of the more obnoxious industrial processes, that of plating metals, the E.P.A. and many state agencies have forced the platers to install recovery systems for their spent solutions. (Most spent or used-up plating solutions were dumped into the sewer or the nearest river.) The result of the new recovery equipment was that a recovery rate was so high, the investment produced an 11% return on investment.

There are two subtle lessons here: (1) the platers were unaware of the technical economics of their process and (2) the environmental authorities had overlooked the the educational and persuasion aspects of their role.

These are short terms aspects of environmental investment.

The long term cost is a blighted landscape and poisoned water sources: wells and rivers. It has been estimated that parts of the Hudson River cannot produce edible fish for several hundred years. [See review of The Riverkeepers, below.]

There are wells in Door County, Wisconsin that have been tainted with arsenic from fruit tree spraying. 

A farmer in middle Wisconsin took, in storage on his land from a local manufacturer, containers of tainted trichlorethylene. The containers leaked and the drinking water well, on that land, is fouled. It is likely that other, nearby wells will also to so effected.

Pollution control is short- and medium-term. Pollution effects are long-term.

If the Supreme Court accepts the industry-cost argument and overlooks long-term costs, we are in grave trouble, as a society.                           -  hcl

Epilog (2-28-01): Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the authority of the E.P.A. and to do so without regard to cost considerations. That is welcome news for those of us who prefer to breath clean air and drink safe water. Justice Anthony Scalia wrote that the agency can "identify the maximum airborne concentration of a pollutant that the public health can tolerate, decrease the concentration to provide an 'adequate' margin of safety, and set the standard at that level." Scalia further wrote, "Nowhere are the costs of achieving such a standard made part of that initial calculation." and that The Clean Air Act "unambiguously bars cost consideration."  -  hcl


Book Reviews:

The Problem of Waste Disposal (edited) by Robert Emmet Long (1989), H.W. Wison Co., NYC.  "A compilation of articles with a wide range of topics and technique(s) of waste disposal.  3.5#:  -  hcl    628.4 P94


The Waste Makers by Vance Packard (1960), David McKay Co., NYC.  "Makes good, light reading (The late Vance Packard was among the most readable of authors.) in a non-technical way and provides insight into the marketing-driven strategies used by corporations in producing and marketing their goods. [The reviewer has an M.B.A. in marketing.] This book dropped a bombshell on the American scene when it came out and drove discussion at the B-schools for years afterward. The same forces are at work in today's economy. Recommended.  4.0#"  -  hcl    339.4 P125

Why Do We Recycle?; Markets, Values, and Public Policy by Frank Ackerman (1997),  "The title tells much. At present and following current practices, many recycling operations are not quite economical, for many reasons ... landfill is still very cheap and a disinterested and uninformed public exists as a vast majority. It is worthwhile to become familiar with this even-handed survey of practices. The author suggests that many committed, recycling consumers practice a 'religion of recycling' ... that they believe in the concept and practice it. The author does not touch on comprehensive, economic analysis of the total cost of not recycling or the potential for innovative and economical techniques. Excellent work, as far as it goes.  3.9#"  -  hcl      228.433637 A182 / HD 4482. A27

Hazardous Waste Minimization Handbook by Thomas Higgins (1989), Lewis Publishers, Inc., Chelsea, MI, 228 pp.,  "This handbook concentrates on manufacturing processes e.g., machining and metal-working, solvent cleaning and degreasing, plating and surface finishing, coating and painting, and methods of minimizing quantities used and disposal. Many topics are covered, with anecdotes on those processes listed (above). It is a start on the topic, but many processes are left out. The concentration is on the obvious and traditional processes in factories. But, it is quite practical and includes a good treatment of economics, albeit in the short run.  3.8#"  -  hcl      628.5'1 or 628.42 H636 / TD 793.9. H54 1989

Standard Handbook of Hazardous Waste Treatment and Disposal, 2nd Ed., (edited) by Harry M. Freeman (1998), $125.   "... deals with hazardous wastes exclusively and is very comprehensive. No attempt was made (by this reviewer) to get a page count due to the style of pagination, but it was weighed: 3.36 lbs. This book is a must for the serious hazardous waste manager. It is is highly scientific and offers some math. And, it has 99 contributors!  4.0#"  -  hcl    628.4'2-dc21 / TD1032.S73 1997

Industrial Pollution Prevention Handbook by Freeman [not reviewed]

Hazardous Waste Management by Charles A. Wentz (1989) McGraw-Hill, Inc., NYC.  "A solid piece covering hazardous waste risk assessment, environmental legislation, concepts of waste minimization, chemical /physical / biological treatment(s), thermal processes, transportation, groundwater contamination, etc. Thoroughly annotated w/excellent index and tables.  4.0#"  -  hcl      363.7'28 or 628.42 / TD1030.W46 1989

Emerging Technologies in Hazardous Waste Management (edited) by D. William Tedder and Frederick G. Pohland (1990), American Chemical Society, Washington, DC, 402 pp.,  "A collection of papers from an ACS symposium; cutting edge research on specific pollutants. Borrow it, if you can, before purchase. No rating"  -  hcl   628.4'2-dc20 / TD1020.E44 1990

Biotreatment of Industrial and Hazardous Waste by Morris A. Levin & Michael A. Gealt (1993), McGraw-Hill, inc., NYC, $60, 331 pp.,   "A collection of well-documented scientific papers organized into book form. The text organization and explanations are quite good. Biological waste treatment has been around for a long time (although confined to human, animal and vegetable waste) and this book provides a good foundation to understanding and application. Contains 31 chapters submitted by 73 contributors.  4.0#"  -  hcl    628.4-dc20 / TD1061.B55 1993

Hazardous Waste Management Handbook - Technology, Perception, and Reality (edited) by Paul N. Cheremisinoff & Yeun C. Wu (1994)    [No review; No rating]

Drinking Water - Refreshing Answers to All Your Questions  by  James M. Symons (1995), Texas A & M University Press, College Station, TX, 118 pp., paperback. "... a useful work, clearly written, excellent index, well organized; an introductory piece. Symons explains and clarifies many things. All public libraries should carry this book. 3.8#"  -  hcl    Dewey: 363.61 SY67d

Plain Talk About Drinking Water  by  Dr. James M. Symons (1992), American Water Works Assn., 6666 W. Quincy Ave., Denver, CO 80235-3098,   " 101 questions and answers, the last of which is the best: 'How do I get additional information about drinking water?' which is followed by a fine list of sources of information, including some EPA publications. A very modest work, but useful.  3.8#"  -  hcl    Dewey: 363.61 SY67

The Riverkeepers - Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right by  John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (1997), Scribner, NYC, 301 pp., 25.4 cm./10 in., hardcover.  "This book reads, in part, like a detective story as many dedicated fishermen and environmentalists discover, track down, and shut down polluters, private and public. (What you read will make you angry!) The book is more than the title states ("Two Activists ...etc.") since the authors are fulsome in their coverage and praise of many other self-sacrificing people working hard to clean up a major waterway. 

One important point made in this work is that sportsman (hunters and fisherman) and environmentalists are natural allies. These natural allies should, in all states, link up to enhance their powers of persuasion through lobbying.

The Hudson River is America's oldest major waterway and with the immense concentration of population and industry on its shores, it is the recipient of a mass of pollution. And, several public authorities either ignored or colluded with polluters. This is a down-to-earth, getting your hands dirty (and worse!) practical chronology of  how pollution sources are tracked down. Worthwhile reading, if you care about the future.  4.0#"  -  hcl    Dewey: 363.7 C881

Epilog on The Riverkeepers: "When I was a young man in business school, I was shocked to hear my most admired professor state that, "What's legal is ethical." I didn't agree then (Though I kept my big mouth shut!) and still don't. 

Recently, I saw and heard Jack Welch, the out-going and highly respected chairman of G.E., defend his company's dumping of PCB's into the Hudson River. Welch said, correctly, that what G.E. had done was perfectly legal and within the regulations, at that time. Apparently, Mr. Welch either doesn't know right from wrong or his world is centered on the bottom line of G.E.'s financial reports.     Maybe, Mr. Welch would like to try eating some of the fish caught downstream from his G.E. facilities? 

According to an Associated Press report, Dec. 6, 2000, the E.P.A. will recommend a $460 million "targeted dredging" of PCB-contaminated pockets of the upper Hudson River. These PCB pockets are from General Electric facilities.

General Electric will, of course, contest any liability in court."   -   hcl

2nd Epilog on The Riverkeepers: "More slop on PCB's, G.E., and the Hudson River cleanup: According to an Associated Press article (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 5, 2001), the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has issued an order to General Electric to clean up the Hudson River by dredging. 

The cost is estimated at $500 million dollars. G.E. isn't saying much ... they're waiting to see the EPA order. [Which they will probably fight it in a prolonged court battle.] New York governor George Pataki has lobbied EPA head Christine Whitman on the cleanup. The geography of the cleanup sprawls across 197 miles of the mighty Hudson.

One can only hope that these waters will again provide safe food and recreation for the long-suffering New Yorkers (the entire state, not just NYC)."  -  hcl

[Note: Numbers at end of each review indicate library cataloging  (if available) i.e., Dewey decimal / Library of Congress.]



Know your Materials   (and educate your personnel):