Read the full article by E.A. Crunden (Waste Dive)

“Dive Brief:

  • New analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) argues that a number of landfills and other waste sites could be discharging toxic “forever chemicals” into the air and water. The environmental advocacy organization looked at more than 2,500 industrial facilities across the country as part of its research on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 
  • Included in the more than 30 sites listed by the group are facilities operated by Waste Management, Republic Services, Clean Harbors, Veolia North America, US Ecology and Illinois-based Peoria Disposal Co. (PDC), among others. ‘We disagree with any suggestion in the report that the Waste Management landfills present any threat to public health or the environment,’ Janette Micelli, a spokesperson for the company, told Waste Dive.
  • The report’s findings are only ‘suspected’ and do not firmly establish those facilities as confirmed sources of PFAS. EWG asserts a lack of oversight and mandated testing by the U.S. EPA has limited available data on PFAS sources. Lawmakers supportive of regulating PFAS argued in a call last week that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of public health, potentially generating more oversight from Congress.

Dive Insight:

PFAS, the family of chemicals linked to cancer and other deadly illnesses, are found in virtually every landfill. The non-stick chemicals are present in a range of everyday items from cooking pans to dental floss and eventually emerge in the waste stream.

In its analysis, EWG found 2,501 industrial facilities it believes could be discharging PFAS. EWG used two online EPA databases for the research, as well as a New York survey and an internal 2017 EPA memo. 

During a call with reporters discussing the findings, EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber said 2,467 of those sites have already reported releases of non-PFAS toxic chemicals designated under the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.

‘Industrial discharges are the most significant sources of PFAS entering our water sources and our air,’ Faber argued. 

Waste sites are among the types of industry operations EWG singled out in its research. At least 36 locations were cited for potential PFAS discharge, including sites owned by Waste Management subsidiaries in California, Illinois and Oregon; a site owned by a Republic subsidiary in New York; and Illinois sites owned by PDC and Veolia.

‘Since PFAS are not regulated as hazardous wastes, they may move through many facilities in our logistics network, and the ultimate disposal facility, which is typically a thermal treatment, is selected by our customers,’ Veolia North America Senior Vice President Bob Cappadona told Waste Dive. 

The company has previously expressed interest in PFAS management as a business opportunity, given growing interest in safely disposing of the chemicals. Cappadona also underscored that clients sometimes require disposal of items that may contain PFAS.

‘We are responsive to the needs of our customers,’ Cappadona​ said…”