Hazardous Waste News

News Item 1: Arizona to Conduct Inspections of Hazardous Waste From Mexico

On July 2, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Steve Owens announced that the agency will be launching an effort to inspect shipments of hazardous waste coming from Mexico into Arizona at Arizona's three ports of entry in Nogales, San Luis and Douglas, the state's busiest crossings from Mexico.

Owens said that the state budget recently signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) provides funding for ADEQ to hire three full-time hazardous waste inspectors to review waste shipments coming into Arizona from Mexico to ensure they are being transported safely in accordance with all requirements of state and federal law. ADEQ will post an inspector at each border crossing where the waste shipments are likely to occur.

"No one at either the federal or state level is inspecting hazardous waste shipments coming into Arizona from Mexico," Owens said. "We are pleased that we got the funding to perform this critical task." ADEQ had unsuccessfully sought funding for the inspectors last year from the Arizona legislature.

Under federal law, U.S.-owned manufacturing plants in Mexico, known as maquiladoras, are required to dispose of their waste in the United States. Federal law also permits other companies to bring their waste into the United States for disposal. Because Arizona has no hazardous waste disposal facilities, any waste coming across the border will ultimately end up in other states for disposal.

The ADEQ inspectors will check Mexican hazardous waste shipments for compliance with applicable hazardous waste laws; track the amount, types and final destination of hazardous wastes; ensure that shipments are destined for facilities authorized to accept the waste; and ensure that the wastes are being securely shipped.

"Having full-time inspectors at the border crossings will help ensure that any waste coming into Arizona from Mexico is being transported through our state safely, legally and securely," Owens said.

Owens noted that episodes involving waste shipments at the border in previous years underlay ADEQ's desire to have inspectors at the border. In 2004 at the Otay Mesa port of entry in California, opposite Tijuana, three companies shipped two loads of sludge that burst into flames, one at port and one on the open road near San Diego. And in 2005 a shipment of furniture fumigated with a powerful pesticide was intercepted that could have exposed Customs officials in Nogales to levels of the chemical 50 times higher than U.S. law allows.

For more information, contact ADEQ at http://www.azdeq.gov.

News Item 2: New Hampshire's Ban on Disposal of TVs, Computer Monitors in Landfills Takes Effect This Month

In order to remove a significant source of lead from the environment, a ban on the disposal of televisions and computer monitors in New Hampshire's landfills and incinerators went into effect July 1. Most towns and cities in the state have electronics recycling programs in place and, recently, Staples has announced that they will recycle some types of electronic waste at their stores. There are also a number of commercial recycling centers available to state residents which are listed on the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Web site at http://des.nh.gov/SWTAS/comp_recyclers.htm.

NDHES officials said that recently, Texas, Oregon, and Connecticut have passed legislation requiring recycling of electronics, joining Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Maryland and other states with recycling or disposal ban laws. The Electronic Industries Alliance, with nearly 1,300 member companies, has proposed a national legislation model which includes an industry-sponsored organization for the recycling of televisions and a take-back program for computers and related equipment.

News Item 3: North Carolina Governor Signs Bill to Increase Regulation of Hazardous Waste Facilities

On June 26, Gov. Mike Easley (D) signed into law House Bill 36, "An act to improve the oversight of hazardous waste facilities, as recommended by the Governor's Hazardous Materials Task Force." The legislation will require companies that store hazardous waste to provide more information to state and local governments and details on these facilities and the waste being stored are easily available.

"This new law makes our permit requirements stricter and improves communication to make sure our citizens are protected in case of a hazardous waste accident," Easley said. "Also, the law adds new provisions to make sure hazardous waste facility operators put the health and safety concerns of our citizens as their top priority. I commend the members of the General Assembly for unanimously passing this comprehensive bill. It provides the further protection North Carolinians need to be secure in their neighborhoods and communities."

Provisions in the new law include requiring those who apply for hazardous waste facility permits to provide information about the facility and its contingency plans to local governments and emergency responders. The law also requires that all information on the waste stored at each facility be available offsite to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, local governments and emergency responders. The primary sponsors of the legislation include state Rep. Jennifer Weiss (D-Wake), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Wake), Rep. Ty Harrell (D-Wake) and Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake).

The legislation developed out of recommendations from the Governor's Hazardous Materials Task Force. Easley created the 11-member task force last fall following the Oct. 5, 2006, late-night fire at the Environmental Quality Co. (EQ) complex in Apex that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people who lived near the facility. The EQ warehouse was a storage facility for hazardous materials.

For more information, contact the governor's office at http://www.governor.state.nc.us.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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