Wednesday, April 29, 2009

dirt disposal problems

I'm always interested in the public reaction to environmental issues. So I was curious to see what folks would say about this NY times post about the interaction of contaminants and health problems.

A consistent theme in the comments was concern over the fate of the contaminants in the article. If the soil was so contaminated, why did they just haul it away? Wouldn't that just cause another mess somewhere else?

The idea is to take contaminants that are uncontrolled out of the environment. Contaminated soil has to go somewhere, so often it goes to another facility. Modern landfills that are licensed to take hazardous waste have all sorts of systems to stabilize contaminated soils and keep the contamination from migrating elsewhere, so it doesn't cause excessive risks to health and the environment.

Ideally, we'd like to neutralize contamination either in place or at some sort of treatment facility. But stubborn, relatively stable contaminants like dioxin are really hard to treat. And treatment systems to treat, say, solvents in groundwater may take generations to completely clean up contamination in place.

If we had simple, cheap alternatives to clean up contamination, we'd be using them.

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