The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has
issued new rules for protecting an estimated 200,000 workers at active
toxic waste dumps, and at Superfund cleanup sites. The regulations
require periodic medical examinations, a minimum of 40 hours of safety
and health training for workers at cleanup sites and active dumps,
extensive monitoring of air at the sites, and provision of protective
gear for employees.
Citizens who inquire should be able to get the monitoring data, and
thus learn something about the chemicals that are wafting off-site into
neighborhoods near dumps and Superfund cleanup sites. Citizens may also
want to inquire about the nature of the medical studies conducted under
these regulations, though the details of specific medical findings will
be confidential and not available to the public. What medical problems
do officials expect and look for? Citizens should be asking similar
questions about their neighbors and themselves, if they live near a
Under the new rules, employers must tell employees of expected
exposures before they enter a dangerous area and must develop emergency
response and decontamination programs. OSHA estimates that more than
30,000 workers are involved in Superfund cleanups; 137,000 workers are
employed by operators of hazardous waste dumps. Also covered indirectly
are the 4,000 to 40,000 emergency fire, police and other workers who
might be exposed to spills of hazardous materials in accidents. The new
"interim final" rules are effective immediately. They appeared in the
FEDERAL REGISTER Dec. 19, 1986, available at libraries or from OSHA
itself. The interim final OSHA rule is based on a 1985 document issued
jointly by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA, the U.S. Coast
Guard, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,
entitled, "Occupational Safety and Health Guidance Manual for Hazardous
Waste Site Activities." To learn more about the latest OSHA rules,
phone or write Chappell Pierce, OSHA, 200 Constitution Ave., NW,
Washington, DC 20210; (202) 523-8017.
INNOVATIVE ILLINOIS LAW DETERS LAND DISPOSAL OF TOXIC WASTES
The state of Illinois is trying an entirely new approach to control of
hazardous chemical dumping. Effective January 1, 1987, a 1981 state law
prohibits land disposal of any hazardous chemicals in the state unless
the dumper can show that "no economically reasonable and technically
feasible" alternative exists and can convince the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to issue a variance to the law.
Under the Illinois law, every hazardous waste generator in the state
must have a permit for each toxic waste stream; so far about 800
permits have been issued. Of these, 350 have so far applied for a
variance from the land disposal ban, and IEPA has granted "most of
these," according to Harry Chappel of IEPA in Springfield, IL.
The IEPA has issued "guidelines" for enforcement of the law; the
guidelines cover land disposal methods besides just landfilling, such
as deep well injection, surface impoundments, and land farming. The
IEPA regs also require companies to take account of waste reduction
practices that could reduce the need for land disposal of toxics.
After the IAEA issued its "guidelines," the Illinois Pollution Control
Board (IPCB) issued "emergency" regulations covering the same subject.
Citizens for a Better Environment (CBE) in Chicago, joined by IL
Attorney General Neil Hartigen, brought a lawsuit charging that the
IPCB's regulations only covered landfills and ignored other land
disposal methods. They also pointed out that the IPCB regs ignored
waste reduction activities that generators could use to avoid the need
for waste disposal, and that, since the law was six years old, no
"emergency" ex- isted. The IPCB makes all environmental regulations in
Illinois and consists of influential citizens appointed by the
governor. The Attorney General is independently elected and does not
answer to the governor.
In late January, 1987, an Illinois Appellate Court ruled in favor of
CBE and the AG, setting aside the IPCB regs.
Hazardous waste generators from outside Illinois seeking to dump in
Illinois are also subject to the Illinois law. The Illinois ban on land
disposal is entirely separate from the federal government's
restrictions on landfilling of toxics under the Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act (RCRA). For further information, phone CBE at (312)
939-1540 or the IEPA or the IPCB, which have the same phone number:
NEW STUDIES: PESTICIDES AND FISH
A.S. Murty. TOXICITY OF PESTICIDES TO FISH. Two Volumes. Boca Raton,
FL: CRC Press [2000 Corporate Boulevard, NW; (800) 272- 7737], 1986.
The first volume ($96) describes the general problem of pesticides in
the environment, their accumulation in food chains, and the hazards
presented to fish (and thus to the consumers of fish). Volume 2 ($76)
discusses individual pesticide compounds, and environmental hazard
prediction and evaluation.
Descriptor terms: osha; regulations; occupational safety and health;
hazardous waste; landfilling; superfund; pollution; emergency response;
remedial action; emergency response personnel; pesticides; toxicity;
fish; pollution; wildlife; food safety; bans; il; waste disposal