Daily Digest: Republic landfill health effects studied; pill ring busted at Wheelabrator
In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
CONFLICTING REACTIONS TO BRIDGETON STUDY
Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has released a report that found "breathing sulfur-based compounds at concentrations detected in air near the Bridgeton Landfill may have harmed the health of people living or working" near the Republic Services-owned site in previous years.
This would have occurred in the form of aggravating existing conditions such as asthma or COPD; causing headache, nausea or fatigue; and in cases of long-term exposure, leading to increased stress or "risk of respiratory infection for those living or working near the landfill." The report is based on data collected by the state's Department of Natural Resources and the EPA between 2013 and 2016.
The report also found presently "fugitive emissions from the landfill have decreased significantly, and breathing sulfur-based compounds in the air near the landfill is unlikely to harm most people's health." Cancer risks were found to be similar to other urban environments in the U.S.
Republic, which took over the site when it merged with Allied Waste in 2008, recently settled a lawsuit with the state's attorney general over the handling of an ongoing subsurface fire. That settlement included $16 million worth of payments and full responsibility for ongoing monitoring and mitigation. The company has spent more than $242 million on site improvements and remediation in recent years.
While some local activists took the report as validation of their concerns, the company had a different response in a statement provided to St. Louis Public Radio.
"The report comes as a surprise, after five years of DHSS’ own reporting which found no impact to human health," read the statement. "In addition, St. Louis County Public Health recently found no significant difference in asthma, COPD or other diagnosed respiratory conditions. We can agree that air emissions are normal today, and odor has been under control since 2013."
The state is accepting comments on this study through Nov. 20 and plans to hold a public meeting about it next month.
Bridgeton Landfill LLC is also named as a potentially responsible party for the adjacent West Lake Landfill Superfund site, which has been a source of community tension for years as the EPA considers the best path forward for remediation. Further details on the agency's clean-up plan are expected by Sept. 30.
IN OTHER NEWS
Modern Waste worker honored with truck procession — MLive
A funeral was held this weekend for Justin Pratt, a 27-year-old collection worker that died in Michigan last week, with an estimated 30 trucks participating in the procession. About half were from Modern Waste and the rest came from fellow haulers or towing companies in the area. Pratt, a former U.S. Marine, was temporarily pinned between his vehicle when it was rear-ended by a pick-up track on Sept. 18 and later died from the injuries.
$1.2M pill operation busted at Wheelabrator facility in Pennsylvania — Bucks County Courier Times
Police in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, working with the FBI and Bucks County District Attorney's office, have shut down an alleged pill resale operation being run out of the Wheelabrator Falls facility in Morrisville. A group of unidentified employees had been taking pills shipped to the facility by drug companies for destruction and passing them off to outside dealers for sale in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. An estimated 200,000 pills worth $1.2 million were seized and the investigation is ongoing.
Wheelabrator is not under investigation, has fired the employees involved and, according to a statement, has “worked cooperatively with authorities throughout their investigation to address and resolve this issue including immediate changes to our operations to ensure it will not occur again."
Indiana recycling company owner pleads guilty in e-waste scheme — DOJ & Chicago Sun-Times
Brian Brundage, the owner of Intercon Solutions Inc. and EnviroGreen Processing, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion in connection with a decade-long practice of illegal e-waste management. Rather than recycling the material, Brundage resold it for profit and directed employees to send CRT screens and other potentially hazardous material to landfills. He has admitted to evading nearly $744,000 in federal income taxes by hiding these efforts.
Boise area composting could expand — Meridian Press
The Meridian City Council in Idaho recently approved Timber Creek Recycling's request to become a commercial composting site. This approval is considered the first step toward potentially offering organics collection service to Meridian residents. Timber Creek currently runs a yard waste composting operation at the location and has expressed interest in expanding those services to include food scraps. Implementation of any curbside service in partnership with Republic Services — modeled after a program launched in Boise during 2017 — is still expected to be years away.
NYC schools partner with S'well for reusable bottle initiative — New York Times
New York's Department of Education has teamed up with S'well to distribute an estimated 320,000 reusable water bottles to students at public or charter high schools in the city. This distribution is part of a new initiative called "Bring It," estimated to potentially cut 54 million plastic water bottles out of the waste stream during the school year.
Major British grocery chain announces plastic targets — CNBC
Co-op Food announced over the weekend it will soon stop distributing single-use plastic bags at nearly 1,400 locations where local options exist to process compostable bags. An estimated 60 million bags will be affected by the change. The company plans to stop using black or dark plastic packaging for its store-brand products by 2020 and make all other products in that line "easy to recycle" by 2023. Co-op is also aiming to use at least 50% recycled content in multiple products by 2021.
SEEN & HEARD
Fashion with a Passion: United by Blue Founder Brian Linton — Rubicon Global Podcast
The outdoor clothing company known for pledging to pick up a pound of litter for every product sold expects to have collected 1.5 million pounds by the end of this year. Linton explains how his childhood in Singapore created a dedication to cleaning up waterways, explains how United by Blue's distribution network makes this possible and talks about why younger generations may be able to help turn the tide on this growing issue.
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