Oregon Councilman Sandy Bihn has asked the city to find out why Envirosafe Services of Ohio, Inc., (ESOI) is seeking a permit modification from the Ohio EPA to dispose of higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at its hazardous waste landfill on Otter Creek Road.
Bihn said at a council meeting last Monday that she received a public notice in the mail from the Ohio EPA that stated Envirosafe, an RCRA (Resource Conservation Recovery Act) landfill, can accept higher levels of PCBs containing waste soils.
The facility, according to Bihn, has been allowed to dispose of waste containing 50 mg/Kg PCBs or less. The notice states Envirosafe may dispose of waste materials containing up to 1,000 mg/Kg PCBs.
“This site is a RCRA hazardous waste site, not a TSCA site,” said Bihn.
The RCRA regulates the management and disposal of municipal and industrial solid wastes, from the time they are generated to final disposal. A landfill permitted under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) accepts hazardous substances and extremely hazardous waste.
“We certainly don’t want this facility to turn into a TSCA site,” said Bihn. “I don’t know if anyone from the administration has asked questions in regard to this, but to me this is a flag. It’s something we should be looking into and asking some questions about.”
PCBs, according to the U.S. EPA, has been shown to cause cancer and a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system.
Judy Junga, a long time environmental activist in Toledo, said the following day that she was “baffled” by the public notice.
“It was my understanding that Envirosafe, as a hazardous waste landfill, is only allowed to take PCBs at 50 mg/Kg or below,” she said.
Junga said she recalls several years ago when high levels of PCBs found at Envirosafe’s old waste site near the waterline easement had to be sent to a TSCA landfill in Idaho.
Dina Pierce, northwest district media coordinator for the Ohio EPA, told The Press that Ohio is allowing Envirosafe to accept soils with higher PCBs because Ohio rules now allow it. U.S. EPA regulations regarding disposal of halogenated organic compounds (HOCs), which includes PCBs, changed a few years ago. In September of this year, she said Ohio changed its rules, adopting the federal rule into the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC Rule 3745-270-32).
On October 5 of this year, Ohio EPA received a request from Envirosafe to modify its permit to allow for the acceptance of mixed RCRA and PCB contaminated remediation waste, she said.
“The Ohio rule applies only to soils that are hazardous for metals and also contain PCBs,” she said. “When being disposed, soils that are hazardous for metals are subject to the standards for underlying hazardous constituents (UHCs) and PCBs are a UHC. This UHC standard for PCBs was discouraging folks from cleaning up sites that had contaminated soils containing metals and PCBs. This is because the recommended treatment for PCBs is incineration and that conflicted with allowable treatment methods for soils with metals. The rules change at the federal and state level is to encourage property owners to clean up contaminated sites that may contain PCBs in the soils.”
The permit modification remains in effect as long as Envirosafe holds a valid permit, she said. The modification allows Envirosafe to receive soil exhibiting the toxicity characteristic solely because of the presence of metals and containing PCBs. However, the rule limits Envirosafe to receive up to 1,000 parts per million HOCs.
Envirosafe, she said, “remains prohibited from accepting PCB waste at concentrations greater than 50 parts per million unless the waste is a mixed hazardous waste and a remediation waste.”
“These changes to not change ESOI’s status as a RCRA landfill,” said Pierce.
PCBs were domestically manufactured from 1929 until they were banned in 1979.
PCBs may be present in products and materials produced before the ban, according to the U.S. EPA.
PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications, including electrical, heat transfer, and hydraulic equipment, plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products, in pigments, dyes, and carbonless copy paper, floor finish, adhesives and tapes, caulking, and more, according to the U.S. EPA.
PCBs can still be released into the environment from poorly maintained hazardous waste sites that contain PCBs, illegal or improper dumping of PCB wastes, leaks or releases from electrical transformers containing PCBs, and disposal of PCB-containing consumer products into municipal or other landfills not designed to handle hazardous waste, according to the U.S. EPA.
PCBs can accumulate in the leaves and above-ground parts of plants and food crops, and are also taken up into the bodies of small organisms and fish. As a result, people who ingest fish may be exposed to PCBs that have bioaccumulated in the fish they are eating, according to the U.S. EPA.
Once in the environment, PCBs do not readily break down and may remain for long periods of time cycling between air, water and soil.