Thursday, October 20, 2005

Page County Landfill Story

Recently, Ryan Grim’s article “Marvin’s Dirty Secret,” appeared in the October Rolling Stone Magazine exposing how the President’s brother’s waste company went bankrupt. This firm left behind Page County, Virginia citizens to pay a $8.5 million dollars environmental bill.

Page County has a population of 24,000 and is a hour-and-a-half drive west of Washington D.C next to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is also home to a major Virginia tourist attraction, Luray Caverns.

Page County has been spent a lot of time dealing with landfill issues. There have been numerous questions of conflicts of interest. It’s as if a huge political football is being kicked around regarding what happened and why over the private operation of one unlined landfill and a mega-landfill recently closed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) for ongoing violations and excessive trash intake.

There have been many anomalies in the operation of these Page County landfills and two grand jury investigations. One VADEQ employee was killed by a trash truck in 2003. Another VADEQ employee, who had previously ensured oversight of operations for the landfill on behalf of the Commonwealth, was hired by the landfill company. Marvin P. Bush, the brother of the president, and his partner A. Scott Andrews, one of the president’s biggest fund-raisers, were the managing partners with National Waste Services of Virginia, the company that went Chapter 11 in the operation of Page County’s landfill.

Page County demonstrates just why a small municipality must be wary of becoming a regional landfill and wary of the financial viability in importing lots of outside-county trash. Not only did the traffic of numerous garbage trucks also impact the quality of life and financial obligations of my county, which is just next door, but one truck accident (one of four in under a year) tragically took the life of a VADEQ employee I knew. Rural local governments must exercise extreme prudence if they hope to profit from the waste business.

When government is the regulator and also a market participant, conflicts must be quickly identified and resolved. This is especially true if a formerly small entity begins to operate as a huge enterprise. There are several Virginia counties that have imported trash to help fund local public schools. Trying to profit by importing huge amounts of waste to local county landfills may burden future residents tremendously, and the long-term impacts must be considered in any money-making venture.

Over ten years ago Page County greatly expanded their landfill business by importing lots of outside trash. Allegations have been raised as to whether all the money collected in disposal fees is accounted for by the county treasury[1]. The manner in which local governments enter into landfill agreements requires high-level management skills including a sound procurement process, adequate accounting, and proper oversight on the landfill’s business plan. Adequate measures to care for landfill operation failure must be developed. Without such safeguards taxpayers will have to shoulder these future costs. Also state regulators must provide greater scrutiny and enforcement to keep in check any questionable enterprises.

In the early 1990’s Page County first began to accept large amounts of waste from Tellurian Inc. at $15 per ton into their existing landfill in the Town of Stanley. Even the former county administer admitted under oath that thousands of truckloads of waste were dumped into this unlined landfill with no money in tip or disposal fees collected by the county from 1993-1995[2]. Page County was generating roughly 20 tons per day over ten years ago.

In the fall of 1999, Page County was losing $1500 to $2000 per day since they were not meeting their 250-ton per day guarantee. By January 2001, the local newspaper figured that losses averaged $70,000 per month.

In 1999, a new mega-landfill called Battle Creek was opened by Tellurian, the same company operating the Stanley Landfill that was closed because it was an unlined landfill. National Waste Service (NWS) bought Tellurian out in 2001. In the summer of 2001, Battle Creek increased their tonnage above 250 tons per day despite warnings from VADEQ officials. When Page County signed a contract with NWS it was taking in more than 500 tons per day.

Waste tonnage shortfalls resulted in the county having to raise several million dollars in taxes because of the 250-ton guarantee. Even lowering truckers’ dump fees did not ease this financial burden. While the county gets one dollar to $1.45 for each ton received, the county allowed their state permit disposal rate to be exceeded six fold per day so as to make more money in 2001.

County supervisors relied on the interpretation of their permit by a DEQ employee as allowing more waste than 250 tons per day. Later this same DEQ employee came to work at the Battle Creek Landfill. It is yet to be determined exactly how much this “put or pay” contract put the county into debt to make up for their trash shortfall.

Even though VADEQ notified the county of this violation in July 2001--that the county was taking in 371 tons per day--the Page County Board of Supervisors agreed to let a company dispose 1500 tons per day in December 2001. But on some specific days the intake rose well above the 1500 tons per day. The VADEQ then filed a formal notice in August 2002 against the county. In March of 2004, VADEQ closed this facility down by revoking Page County’s permit. Page County was earning several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in host fees for accepting this trash, but it now has a major financial burden to manage or to close a mega-landfill.

In the spring of 2004, National Waste Services declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Environmental Waste Services (EWS) is a subsidiary of NWS and is a privately owned company that purchased Tellurian Inc. EWS was formed solely to acquire the Battle Creek contract. They are also a subsidiary of the Winston Partners Capital group. NWS filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy just days before the landfill’s closing. It can be speculated that because the Battle Creek landfill closed, NWS, the company that A. Scott Andrews and Marvin Bush founded over ten years before, could have stood to lose millions of dollars. The two companies merged in January 1997, when Marvin Bush, formerly, president of Winston Capital Management LLC and Andrews, formerly president of Winston Capital Management Inc founded National Waste Services of Virginia. NWS is a limited-liability corporation where the Andrews-Bush Corporation privately distributed 1,000 shares of private stock.

All matters involving the company must receive approval from the court, including the county’s plans to build a temporary transfer station. Even though Page County owns the land, their contract allows that NWS through the bankruptcy court has some control over what Page County may presently do.

Today, Page County paid over $8.5 million to get this landfill back into operation. Be warned, if your county is entering into a “put or pay” contract to import trash, find out exactly just what your locality is getting into. It will be years before we will find out how serious the mismanagement of landfills may impact the citizens of Page County. Any local government must be cautious when attempting to profit from any waste management operation.

Landfills in Virginia

For the last several years, Virginia has been the second largest importer of trash in the United States with much of its waste coming from Maryland and New York. However, Virginia does not charge any per-ton tip fee or surcharge like other major waste importation states. Virginia has 320 landfills (open and closed) and 187 have evidence of groundwater contamination. There is a serious lack of good information as to what types of waste are entering Virginia. For example, tens of millions of tons of construction and demolition (C&D) waste comes into the Commonwealth, and as many of the unlined C&D landfills fill up, there is still little known about the impacts and the flow of this waste stream.

Who is Responsible?

As we continually witness in corporate America, good oversight is essential to protecting stockholder’s interest. For stakeholders, adequate neutral third-party oversight is essential to ensure responsible management and accounting in local government solid waste operations, especially if large amounts of outside trash are being brought in. When Page County first entered in to their waste guarantee, the ramifications of this agreement were not fully realized. This is particularly (and painfully) relevant when large amounts of money and economic development pressures can place environmental concerns on the back burner. When hundreds of thousands of tons of who-knows-what types of waste are disposed of there are many potential future concerns. There are also many difficult and costly engineering facets in closing and cleaning-up landfills, such as methane gas collection systems, slope design, and other technical remedial aspects.

Poor Accounting

The two Page County landfill operations will be scrutinized in years to come. Local jurisdictions may wish to employ good contracts, inspectors, and administrators. But first, local government officials must develop good negotiations and viable agreements so as not to endanger their future viability.

Another important cost is debt service, which represents the remaining debt for loans used to finance any landfill operation and its perpetual care.

Landfill tipping fees must be properly accounted for. Insuring sound landfill operations requires good bookkeeping, so that the generators, transporters, owners, and operators assume these costs as a factor of doing business. Notably, any governmental landfill operation should:

· Insure that there are sufficient reserves and a viable long-term business plan. When a local government enters into a “put or pay” contract they must fully understand their risks instead of just focusing on the benefits. Also, they must check the soundness of their financial viability through experts examining their fiscal validity.

· Promote cost accounting to assure their facility’s liabilities and assets are being addressed. How are these tipping fees being collected, and what obligation does the county have versus the landfill operator? Also, include costs for corrective actions and costs beyond the current 30-year conventional financial assurance period, and include them up front.

· Consider requiring independent third-party assessment and determination of the adequacy of current closure, post-closure, and corrective action financial assurance accounts by regulators, especially if they are directly or indirectly market participants.

Local government is ultimately responsible for any waste operations impact on public health and the environment. Privatization does not waive this obligation away from the public sector. Local governments are the last line of defense as advocates for their citizens. However, many rural counties see the host fees as a way to make up for many of their budget shortfalls in these lean times. Without developing good checks and balances, a locality can easily postpone this financial burden, and exacerbate a future mess for its citizens to clean-up. Page County, Virginia is one example how risky it can be for a rural county trying to profit by importing lots of the waste.

Battle Creek Landfill Time Line [3]

January 1999: Battle Creek Landfill opens. It is owned by Page County. Blacksburg-based Tellurian Inc. is contracted as operator. Landfill hailed as a lined, state-of-the-art facility.

November 1999: Losses at Battle Creek make headlines. Contract between Page County and Tellurian calls for at least 250 tons per day in trash — all coming from surrounding counties. Page County must pay the difference if trash does not reach 250-ton plateau. County pays between $1,500-$2,800 per day for "empty" tonnage.

January 2001: Intensity builds concerning county losses at Battle Creek. Page News and Courier begins running a "Battle Creek Bottom Line" graphic on front page. Graphic shows landfill regularly falls below the 250-ton per day mark. Losses average up to $70,000 a month.

March 2001: Tellurian brings "third party" to negotiating table. Three-way talks begin on a buyout of Tellurian, one that would bring in a new landfill operator. Buyout contingent on upping tonnage limit from 250 per day to 1,500 per day.

May 2001: Page County agrees to take in waste from West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Tonnage totals begin topping 250 tons per day.

July 2001: Concerns raised during negotiations for new landfill contract. Contract would up tonnage, allow for out-of-state waste and put landfill operator in charge of waste streams. First draft of contract includes clause for expansion. Citizens in Page and Shenandoah counties worry about increased truck traffic. Landfill opponents stage protest. Signs read "No Mega-Landfill."

July 2001: Third party in negotiations identified as Dover, Del.-based Environmental Waste Services Inc. (EWS). Company was formed solely to acquire Battle Creek contract. EWS is a subsidiary of National Waste Services Inc., also of Delaware. National Waste’s financial backer is McLean-based Winston Partners, an investment company started in 1994 by Marvin P. Bush, President George W. Bush’s youngest brother.

October 2001: In a 3-to-1 vote, with one abstention, the Page County Board of Supervisors approves new landfill contract. Tellurian sells operation to EWS. Deal calls for county to get a host fee of $1 to $1.50 per ton. Tonnage limit upped to 1,500 per day. EWS borrows $14 million from outside to finance the deal — $9 million for "acquisition."

December 2001: Landfill deal with EWS signed by county supervisors.

February 2002: New Battle Creek Landfill operators begin doing business as National Waste Services (NWS) of Virginia Inc.

August 2002: The Page County Farmers Association, along with other civic groups get more than 4,800 names, bypasses county officials and heads to Gov. Mark R. Warner and the DEQ in Richmond. It is the second of three anti-landfill petitions in the county.

September 2002: DEQ cites Battle Creek Landfill for exceeding its permitted tonnage. DEQ maintains current state permit, which is held by the county, limits tonnage to just 250 per day. Landfill taking in close to 1,200 per day.

April 2003: Page County supervisors approve NWS request to expand landfill’s capacity by building steeper and deeper cells for garbage. In exchange, NWS agrees to a profit-sharing arrangement with county. Request passed on to DEQ for state approval. DEQ shelves request.

July 2003: DEQ tells Page County that the state intends to revoke the county’s permit to operate Battle Creek. Permit revocation would shut down landfill.

August 2003: DEQ officials take Page County supervisors on a tour of Battle Creek Landfill to point out violations cited by state inspectors. Focus placed on inadequate drainage system and improperly separated trash.

October 2003: Page County supervisors vote 3-to-2 to transfer Battle Creek’s operating permit to NWS. County promised $1,000 up front plus a percentage of revenue. Transfer contingent on state approval of NWS expansion plan. DEQ will eventually deny the permit transfer request and never act on the expansion request.

November 2003: Page County citizens place four new supervisors in office during voting on Nov. 4. The only incumbent on the five-member board is long-standing landfill opponent. Four new supervisors oppose landfill to varying degrees. New board to take office in January 2004.

December 2003: Dwight Matthew Sours of Stanley is killed Dec. 3 when a trash truck headed to Battle Creek overturns and crushes Sours’ Ford Festiva. Sours was an engineer with DEQ, though he was not involved in solid waste monitoring or regulations. It was the fourth trash truck to crash near Massanutten Mountain since 2002.

February 2004: NWS files an injunction to stop the county from implementing stricter regulations on trash haulers. Injunction is heard in Page Circuit Court. It is not granted. Haulers required to follow new regulations.

February 2004: County fines NWS $70,000 for breaking new hauling regulations. Twenty-eight trucks without proper decals dump trash.

March 2004: DEQ’s hearing on revoking Battle Creek’s operating permit is canceled at Page County’s urging. Matter of permit revocation turned over solely to DEQ. Soon after, NWS files for bankruptcy, saying the move protects it from county efforts to void contract.

March 10, 2004: DEQ officially revokes Page County’s operating permit at Battle Creek Landfill. Incoming trash is stopped immediately. Facility is shut down.

[1] Edward, Kieloch,” The Corrupt County” Citizens for a Better Page County Government, 2003 pg 37

[2] Ibid, page 38

[3] Page News and Courier, March 18, 2004 and 6/9/04 e-mail with Jeb Caudill, Editor

Friday, October 14, 2005

Dealing with a Full Deck

Deal with a Full Deck
By Rob Arner

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, I had a dream as the District's first recycling coordinator. I was inspired by Martin Luther King's dream. Ironically, Dr. King, who is remembered for non-violent action, was slain helping the Memphis garbage workers. I remember the resulting nightmare when numerous building on 7th and 14th Street were burned down.

Waste in DC can be utilized once we all better manage the bountiful forms of liquid, solid, gaseous, human, and other resources that are neglected. In the nation's capital, the city government knows exactly where your car is parked. But this town consumes more and knows less where the things it consumes end up than any other American city. Each year in the metro area we lose the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez just from the motor oil, car filters, and antifreeze dumped by do-it-yourself motorist.

Discovery happens in the act of recovery, which inspired me to create Ray CycleTM in 1981 while I was working for the D.C. Energy Office. Working to recycle paper and used oil, I created this educational character for my peace of mind. Later, I traded in my tights and ecology flag cap for a new costume when I got Ray's name trademarked, sharing it with the State of Connecticut. I became a court jester campaigning on April Fools Day at the US Capitol steps, proclaiming, "You are not dealing with a full deck when you throw the joker out!" Shakespeare once said, "I had rather a fool make me merry than experience to make me sad."

But for the past 25 years, I have observed that this region ignores what we lose. This reckless loss has both domestic and international implications, and I have tried to call attention to them. In my early twenties I testified before Congress and helped build a used-oil recycling facility. I even have done volunteer work in Africa, recycling oil in Namibia. But my last job helping the rural poor with water and waste was cut by the Feds. For over a year, I have been unemployed as I search for similar sorts of work. Why do we not value and reward those who wish to save things?

I estimate Americans use, discard and recycle more than 11 billion tons of waste, not including nuclear and hazardous waste. For years, I've watched the government waste trillions of dollars in programs coming out of the Pentagon, Medicare, Homeland Security, Agriculture and a host of other sources of pork projects. This activity has profound, destructive implications. You do not have go far to see how uncontrolled America is, evidenced by a Federal budget that continues to squander our grandchildren's chances.

There is an "out of sight, out of mind" violence happening with our "wasted mentality" culture. This act threatens our very well being, a form of waste that hides itself in many ways. We must detect the consequences by tracking waste more completely and responsibly. Yes, more people recycle than vote in the U.S., but we still tend to value "ending" over "mending." I am not just talking about appliances, but people, places and things. Our very freedom is in question until we wake from the nightmare myth that we have a limitless supply of goods and the right to do things that harm others.

Just consider a few by-products we all create. Where do our old computers go? Yearly, millions of old computers, spent mercury lamps, cell phones and other waste from our "e-culture" - materials that contain thousands of tons of toxins - are released into our environment. The floods in New Orleans show us that harmful products in our homes can create a terror of their own. Only when we can take greater responsibility for lessening our waste can we prevent that type of terror.

American's effluence is not just pernicious. The impacts are multi-dimensional. Our youth are dangerously overweight. Our consumptive addiction is sending many to ruin. We are no longer a country of plenty but are trillions of dollars in debt, and the debt is burgeoning. What's more, we are quickly becoming owned by China.

Yankee ingenuity must be reborn. We need frugal American leaders to stimulate true economy. Remember that our ancestors founded this nation with thrift. George Washington was one the first dedicated composters, and all of the revolutionary era patriots recycled and reused. Promoting sustainable economic growth by transforming waste will be an investment in the world's future prosperity. Both a transformational attitude and the gratitude of those who come after us will be the end result. A crisis is at hand, and it should make us ask how we can better conserve and practice daily acts that preserve.

Prosperity will pick up when we each salvage every form of resource imaginable for future Washingtonians. Responding to our national debt, citizens must counter with skillful forms of saving. That we will have to face our spending addiction is not a matter of if, but when. Reaching a tipping point in the direction of sanity will show the world we do practice what we preach. And we must keep in mind that American consumption is even killing us by our dangerous diet of junk food. So let's dump less toxic stuff in our trash and walk and ride our bikes more. We must explore what we have pushed "out of sight." We, the people, must become more lean and green. Our happiness depends on this. As we show greater respect for people, places and things, we will feel better about out future. The words "heart" and "earth" have the same five letters; let's do more to connect them. Please deal with a full deck and save the joker now!

Backyard Burning is Highly Toxic

Most Americans are unaware that backyard burning is now the number one contributor of dioxins besides polluting other toxic chemicals into our air, land and water. U.S. EPA data indicate that by 2004, backyard burning will become the single largest contributor of dioxin emissions in the U.S. Also, backyard burning exceeds all other quantifiable dioxin emission sources combined. Backyard burning of household waste emits 1,000 to 10,000 times more dioxins than from modern, well controlled municipal solid waste incinerators.

Beside dioxins, smoke from open burning also contains a variety of other pollutants including particulate matter, sulfur dioxides, lead, mercury, and benzene compounds. Breathing these pollutants can damage the lungs, nervous system, kidneys, and liver. Dioxin compounds, such as furans and polychlorinated bi-phenyls (PCBs), are created whenever materials containing carbon and chlorine are burned. These compounds are extremely toxic even in small amounts. Recent studies undertaken by U.S. EPA reveal that dioxin may be a more potent human carcinogen than originally thought.

The World Health Organization cites that, long-term exposure has been linked to adverse effects on the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions”. While dioxin exposure can occur through direct inhalation, the larger risk to humans is more indirect. Dioxins contaminate the environment when airborne particulates settle on soil and water and are then absorbed by crops, or consumed by fish, cattle, and humans. In fact, according to the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Dioxin, 95 percent of dioxin exposure occurs through our diet – accumulated from consumption of meat, eggs, milk, and cheese.

We must educate rural residents not to burn their trash because of convenience, cost and traditional reasons. Preventing backyard burning in rural communities will be difficult unless education and enforcement measures are developed. Changing people’s behavior not to burn their waste requires tremendous ingenuity and a community effort. Only will a major awareness program will stop backyard burning from impacting our health.

Promoting Safer Biosolid/Sludge Land Application

Promoting best management practices (BMPs) for the land application of biosolids—also known as sludge--will lessen water pollution and safeguard public health. However, while some BMPs have been developed for nutrients, others need to be developed once the full range of constituents in sludge are determined. The designation of proper management guidelines and responsibilities for safe land application of biosolids can translate into improved environmental quality.

In response to the Clean Water Act, Federal, State and local governments have built thousands of sewage treatment and collection facilities. Today over 16,000 sewage treatment facilities serve nearly 190 million Americans (72% percent of the U.S. population—not counting those with decentralized septic and wastewater systems). In addition, these sewage treatment and collection facilities serve thousands of industrial and commercial establishments.

Roughly eight million dry metric tons of biosolids are annually produced or about 70 pounds per person per year. About 54 percent of these biosolids are land applied as fertilizer or as soil conditioner.

Biosolids range from 70 percent to greater than 98 percent water content. The dry matter in biosolids consists mostly of inert minerals (i.e., sand and silica) or biological materials comprised of fat, protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Biosolids also contain trace amounts of heavy metals and organic chemicals. And, biosolids contain varying levels of metals, pathogenic organisms, vector (e.g., insects and rodents) attractants and odor-causing substances that may be harmful. These metals, organic chemicals and pathogens can pose a threat to human health unless the biosolids are sufficiently processed and properly managed.

Part 503 Biosolid Rule allows land application (spreading) of sewage sludge (also known as sludge) as fertilizer or to condition the soil. The passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972 helped ensure that municipal wastewater was treated. In 1988, the Ocean Dumping Ban Act was enacted amending the 1972 Clean Water Act. The ban prohibited all dumping of sewage sludge and industrial waste into the ocean after 1991, leaving three main options (each with limitations) to dispose of wastewater and sludge: landfilling, incineration, and land-spreading. The EPA has focused on promoting the use of sludge for land application. In 1993, the EPA published the 503 Sludge Rule setting standards for the use or disposal of sewage

The Concern with Biosolid Land Application

The EPA’s standards have generated controversy in the scientific and agricultural communities, as well as with the general public. Although the 503 Sludge Rule establishes minimum quality standards for biosolids to be land applied, many citizens and scientists question the adequacy of these standards. Some have also proposed more stringent standards, additional source separation and greater pretreatment of contaminants. Various scientists expressed concerns about the effects on humans from contaminants concentrated in the sludge during treatment. Numerous citizens that either work with, or live near, sludge have voiced these same concerns.

Several years ago the EPA Inspector General found: “EPA does not have an effective program for ensuring compliance with the land application requirements of the 503 rules. …While EPA promotes land application, they cannot ensure the public that current land application practices are protective of human health and the environment.”

National Academies Study

In the last few years the National Science Foundation has been exploring information on the land application of sludge and evaluating the methods used by the U.S. EPA to assess risks from chemical pollutants and pathogens in sludge.

The National Academies in 2002 released a paper called, “Biosolids Applied to Land: Advancing Standards and Practices” in which their overarching recommendations were:

There is uncertainty about the potential adverse human health effects from exposure to biosolids. To assure the public and protect public health, there is a need to update the scientific basis of the 503 rule. The committee identified several data gaps and issues in management practices that should be addressed including: a lack of exposure and health information on exposed populations; reliance on outdated risk-assessment methods; reliance on outdated characterization of sewage sludges; inadequate programs to ensure compliance with biosolids regulation; and lack of resources devoted to EPA’s biosolids program.

Specifically, they are looking to:

1. Review the risk-assessment methods and data used to establish concentration limits for chemical pollutants in biosolids to determine whether they are the most appropriate approaches. The committee will also consider the NRC's previous (1996) review and determine whether that report's recommendations have been appropriately addressed. Issues to consider include: (a) how the relevant chemical pollutants were identified; (b) whether all relevant exposure pathways were identified; (c) whether exposure analyses, particularly from indirect exposures, are realistic; (d) whether the default assumptions used in the risk assessments are appropriate; and (e) whether the calculations used to set pollutant limits are appropriate.

2. Review the current standards for pathogen elimination in sludge and their adequacy for protecting public health. The committee will consider: (a) whether all appropriate pathogens were considered in establishing the standards; (b) whether enough information on infectious dose and environmental persistence exists to support current control approaches for pathogens; (c) risks from exposure to pathogens found in Class B sludge; and (d) new approaches for assessing risks to human health from pathogens in sludge.

3. Explore whether approaches for conducting pathogen risk-assessment can be integrated with those for chemical risk-assessment. If appropriate, the committee will recommend approaches for integrating pathogen and chemical pollutant risk-assessments.

Land Application in Virginia

Numerous jurisdictions in Virginia and elsewhere have questioned the practice of applying biosolids to farmland and other property. Several years ago, Land Application of Biosolids in Virginia: A Study Prepared for the Virginia Department of Health, November 1997, by the University of Virginia Institute for Environmental Negotiation cites the needs of local governments for biosolid application ordinances. The following quotes below are generic to the rest of the country’s questions:

...Generally, county officials expressed a desire for greater information and understanding of the program, in order to increase local capability for responding to complaints, as well as having more visible and accessible “field presence.”

Acceptance of biosolids application as an environmentally positive method of recycling depends upon public confidence that the program is properly regulated and managed. That is, citizens must feel confident that the rules are properly followed by all parties participating in the biosolids generation, application, and utilization.

Because of the possible health and safety implications if land applications of biosolids are improperly performed, some localities have either banned the practice, or are developing stricter regulations. However, in Virginia the courts have severely limited the ability of local governments to address problems and prohibit bans. Also, the application of biosolids in areas where some people have fragile immune systems is being questioned. Incidents triggered either by odor or fish kills have aroused the concern of citizens and scientists as to whether there is adequate protection for the environment or for public health.

In conclusion safe application of biosolids requires assertive pretreatment pollution prevention, adequate monitoring testing, soil surveys, screening of the application area so as to safeguard contamination to water resources and other measures to insure that sludge does not impact public health or the environment. The debate will continue as to how serious are the risks in the land applications of biosolids.

Addressing Pressured Treated Wood

Wood treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) has been identified by EPA as causing elevated arsenic concentrations and other toxins such as chromium exposure. Because of these concerns a voluntary decision by industry was to phase out CCA products by 2004. EPA will not allow CCA products for residential use and also has a special exemption from being considered a hazardous waste.

CCA-treated wood does leach arsenic into the environment. EPA has not at this time concluded that CCA-treated wood posses unreasonable risks or should be removed or replaced. Several studies have shown that arsenic in CCA does in fact leach out of CCA-treated wood, both, when the wood is new and when the wood ages. Also arsenic is easily transferable to the hands of anyone coming into contact with the wood according to several swipe tests. However, the jury is still out to the exact risk of this type of pressured treated wood since EPA is making several risk assessment of CCA-treated wood. One EPA study is evaluating children’s exposure at residential and recreational sites. The service life of CCA-treated wood products is 25-40 years.

Until the proposed phase-out of the chemical by the U.S. wood treatment industry by the end of 2003, Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) has been the predominant wood treatment preservative in the U.S. The amount of CCA-treated wood purchased in the US during the year 2000 is estimated at 14 million cubic meters. During the same year, it was estimated that roughly 2 million cubic meters were disposed. It is estimated 600 million cubic feet CCA-treated wood produced annually in the U.S.1 This includes play-structures, decks, picnic tables, landscaping timbers, fencing, walkways, poles and other applications. Most treated wood structures currently in-service within the U.S. are treated with CCA. So the impacts of this preserved wood during in-service use and disposal will be experienced in years to come. The amount of CCA chemical added to wood depends upon the intended use of the treated wood product. The wood preserving industry estimated that 32 percent of CCA-treated wood was used for decks. The CCA chemical typically imparts a green color to the wood.

It is forecasted that the quantity of CCA-treated wood disposed within the next 20 to 30 years (which corresponds to the typical service life of treated wood products) will be on the order of 14 million cubic meters per year, which is the approximate quantity that is currently purchased today. This quantity of arsenic is significant and can impact the environment to a considerable extent if the wood is not properly disposed.

There is debate as to the exact CCA-treated wood impact upon public health. CCA wood used in playground equipment has some activities calling it “Poisoned Playgrounds.” While those in the wood preservative industry contend that highest amount of arsenic found in dirt under CCA decks would still provide less than one-twelfth the average exposure of arsenic that a child receives merely in drinking water. The state appointed Florida Physicians Workgroup concluded last year that, “the available data have not demonstrated any clinical disease associated with arsenic exposure from playground equipment of the CCA-treated wood.[2]

EPA recommends that children who play outside around CCA structures should wash their hands prior to eating. Also people working with CCA- treated wood should reduce exposure by wearing dust mask, goggles, gloves and other protective clothing.

Since 1995 a research team from the University of Miami and University of Florida has evaluated the environmental impacts of CCA-treated wood within the State. This research has focused on two distinct areas: in-service leaching of the CCA chemical and disposal pathways for the discarded product.

In Florida, arsenic observed in soils was greater than background concentrations (28.5 mg/kg)3. Also below deck arsencis concentrations exceeded Florida's soil clean-up target levels, potentially threatening human health and the environment. The data further indicates that metals do migrate through soil released by runoff impacting groundwater.

The potential use of alternative wood preservatives must be promoted to subsitute CCA and minimize CCA waste. These alternatives are less harmful since they do not contain arsenic.

Improved disposal-end management play a key role in lessening the environmental impacts of CCA waste. Such new disposal methods can sort CCA wood from untreated wood and support full-scale technological methods to lessen arsenic exposure to the public and environment. Untreated wood can be recoverd as a fuel, mulch and other uses once reasonable assurances are provided that this wood is free of CCA.

More studies are required what happens to pressured treated wood in the US. Current disposal pathways for CCA-treated wood include construction and demolition (C&D) debris landfills. Many of these may be unlined. Also this pressure treated wood can be inadvertently mixed with mulch or wood fuel that is produced from recycled C&D wood. CCA-treated wood can represent up to 30% of the recycled wood by weight according to research conducted in Florida. Research has shown that the CCA chemical is capable of leaching from CCA-treated wood (both in the unburned form and as ash) in quantities that exceed regulatory thresholds established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, thereby suggesting that discarded CCA-treated wood should in many cases be managed as a hazardous waste. When CCA-treated wood represents 5% or more of a recycled wood mixture, the ash from its combustion will typically be characterized as a toxicity characteristic (TC) hazardous waste. Both new and weathered CCA-treated wood has been found in a majority of cases to leach arsenic at concentrations greater than the TC regulatory limit. Leachable arsenic within the mulch may be attributed to the presence of CCA-treated wood.

There are three primary disposal pathways for CCA-treated wood: within construction and demolition (C&D) landfills, recycled as wood fuel, or recycled as mulch. In 1996, an evaluation of wood waste at three C&D facilities found that the wood waste piles were composed of 9 to 30% CCA-treated wood (Solo-Gabriele et al. 2000).

There are two types of waste leaching guidelines, the Synthetic Precipitation Leaching Procedure (SPLP) and the Toxicity Characteristics Leaching Procedure (TCLP). These tests involve the addition of a waste material to a leaching fluid and contacting the waste with the fluid for a period of 18 hours. The metal concentrations in the leachate are then measured at the end of the test. If the concentration of a given metal exceeds a set level, then the waste fails that particular test. In general, SPLP is used to evaluate whether a waste can be land applied or disposed in an unlined landfill. The TCLP test is used to evaluate whether the waste can be disposed in a lined landfill. Results have shown that CCA-treated wood consistently fails guidelines based on the SPLP test and will on occasion fail guidelines based on the TCLP results.

CCA-treated wood within wood fuel is of concern due to potential toxic air emissions, such as the incineration arsenic and chromium and the resulting metals found in the ash. Subsequent studies to characterize CCA-treated wood ash indicate that all ash samples made entirely from CCA-treated wood failed TCLP regulatory levels and would thus be considered a hazardous waste. It was also found that a mixture of 95% untreated wood with 5% CCA-treated wood would cause the ash to fail on some occasions. The proportion of CCA-treated wood within the wood fuel mix should be less than 5%.

There has been a recent increase in the use of C&D wood waste for the production of colored mulch. Since much of this may be contaminated with CCA, recycled C&D CCA-treated wood becomes land applied increasing the potential for contaminating the environment with arsenic, chromium, and copper.

CCA-treated wood best management practice must be developed to lessen CCA chemicals into the environment. Numerous alternative wood preservatives are being developed and used by the American Wood Preservers’ Association. However, there needs to be a CCA-treated wood management plan to minimize risks when CCA-treated wood is used, recycled, burned or disposed of. How we can best manage CCA-treated wood so it harm our health our environment?

*Much of the information in this paper was borrowed from Helena M. Solo-Gabriele1, Timothy G. Townsend, John Schert, “Environmental Impacts of CCA-Treated Wood: A Summary from Seven Years of Study Focusing on the U.S. Florida Environment.”

[1] Cole and Clausen, 1996; Micklewright, 1994

[2] Michael Fumento, “Protecting Kids Right off the Playground.” Scripps Howard News Service, August 28, 2003

[3] Helena M. Solo-Gabriele1, Timothy G. Townsend2, John Schert, “Environmental Impacts of CCA-Treated Wood: A Summary from Seven Years of Study Focusing on the U.S. Florida Environment.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Product Stewardship

One prominent recent initiative in this area is Extended Product
Responsibility(EPR), which is a set of practices based on the idea
that manufacturers should take greater responsibility for the
impacts of their products even after they are sold. Under the
EPR system, all participants in the products' life – designers,
suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, users, and disposers – share
responsibility for the environmental effects of the product. The primary
goals of this initiative are to ensure the responsible use of resources and
to minimize solid waste generation.

Manufacturers may take responsibility in various ways, either directly
or indirectly. “Product takeback” is currently the most widespread form
of EPR. In this process, the product is returned to the manufacturer at the
end of its useful life. The manufacturer is then responsible for its ultimate
nd environmentally sound disposal. European and Asian nations are
aggressively implementing product takeback to combat their solid waste

EPA's Extended Product Responsibility (EPR) program has developed
an extensive Web site on EPR and product stewardship issues. In addition
to general information and resources on the concept of EPR, the newly
updated Web site highlights innovative product stewardship activities
by state, business, and multi-stakeholder group. This site describes
how manufacturers, retailers, consumers, and governments are working
together to make products more sustainable. Detailed profiles are
available on specific products, including electronics, carpet, packaging,
tires, batteries, and vehicles.

To find out about cutting-edge product stewardship initiatives, such
as Sony's electronic takeback program. Visit EPA's EPR web site and also check out the links for more information.

A Revolution in Golf Preventing Foot Damage

Softspikes, Inc., a company I worked for in the early 1990s, exemplifies just what can be accomplished when the commitment to change is driven by an ingeniously marketing the preventative benefits of an innovative product. Both the British and PGA championship were won by golfers wearing Softspikes now since most of the Pro’s play with these golf spikes.

Over decade ago things dramatically changed. A marketing initiative was undertaken by a company called Softspikes, Inc., that revolutionized golf. It was a strategy that established a new paradigm, reversing the traditional method by which products are marketed and sold to golfers on a large-scale basis. Rather than selling products backed up by the endorsement of top players or through television and print advertising, this new strategy sought to gain product acceptance at the “grassroots” level at golf facilities from coast to coast.

It also was a strategy to market a new concept, not just a new product. (It was a concept sell, one that was unfamiliar to most within the golf industry.) By the end of the 1990s, the force of this innovative marketing strategy succeeded in changing the attitudes and behavior of these traditional sticklers for tradition—golfers. Furthermore, Softspikes cleats were the first new product category to be introduced to the golf world in more than 50 years. And it has been recognized as one of the most important advances in the past 100 years of the game.

The lesson to be learned from this marketing strategy is that the truly extraordinary business is the one that steps away from the well-worn path and charts its own distinct route to success. By breaking the old paradigm and establishing a new one, Softspikes gave itself a chance to succeed where under a more “normal” approach, it might have failed.

The incredible success story of Softspikes, the pioneer of, and worldwide leader in, plastic golf cleats was first put in motion through careful analysis of the market landscape. It was then cultivated through a creative program of selling key influencers at golf facilities on the benefits of plastic golf cleats. It then created a “domino effect,” whereby once a top tier of golf clubs committed to the concept of plastic cleats, those facilities in the next tier soon followed.

All along, mandate marketing drove the strategy that took Softspikes, Inc. from conceptualization to successful commercialization, and established Softspikes as a major product category in the golf industry.

Mandate Marketing

Metal golf spikes leave spike marks (or tufts of raised grass) on putting surfaces because the spikes pierce the surface with every step. These metal spike marks used to transform many putting surfaces into mine fields at the end of long day of play, since they were the major contributor to massive damage done to the fragile grass root structure below the surface. Metal spikes also cause extensive damage to carpeting, walkways, and other structures in and around golf facilities. The yearly tab for golf facilities, factoring in golf course maintenance, carpet replacements and sidewalk repairs, exceeded $40 million in the early 1990s.

The original Softspikes product was born in 1992, when a local golf association announced a ban on metal spikes at any local public course. At issue was the damage done to the root structure of putting surfaces. Softspikes knew they had the solution and a winning product.

Targeting private golf clubs and country clubs at the outset, the company worked diligently to forge relationships with key influencers such as golf course superintendents, golf professionals, club general managers and club presidents. Incentives, such as free samples of the product were provided to initially put Softspikes cleats “on the radar” of those influential figures at golf facilities.

Softspikes also offered product incentives to golf courses if they would agree to ban the use of metal spikes within a specified period (typically 30-60 days). Thus, the idea of a course “banning metal spikes” was begun in April 1994.

The product/concept had one other thing working in its favor – the human eye. That eye, multiplied by thousands, could visually see that Softspikes cleats created far less damage to putting surfaces and clubhouses than metal spikes.

A key element in the process involved requiring club members to wear Softspikes cleats for the specified trial period agreed to by the company and the club. In effect, the option of wearing their normal metal spikes was removed for club members who had to comply with the broad decision made by those closest to the operation of a facility. Such a mandate, while it “forced” club members to use the product, gave Softspikes officials what they wanted – the opportunity to have their products tried by large numbers of people without having to convince each individual of the benefits of the product.

The principle of mandate marketing is that consumers had little choice but to purchase the better product (although it may have been more expensive) because that was the only choice given to them.

Mandate marketing set in motion a mass conversion of an industry that today sees more than 15,000 golf courses (nearly 70 percent of all courses in the United States) prohibiting the use of metal spikes. Every shoe manufacturer in North America utilizes plastic cleats as original equipment, with worldwide golf shoe leader FootJoy partnering with Softspikes in 1996 to bring the first full line of golf shoes with plastic cleats to market.

After a successful implementation at private facilities, Softspikes branched out to focus on capturing the much larger public course market. (Public courses make up approximately 11,000 of the 15,000 courses in the U.S.). While the infrastructure of public facilities varies drastically among its individual courses, and more so when compared to private facilities, Softspikes was able to convert many public courses to ban the use of metal spikes.

Mandate marketing had to be modified at the public course level because of various factors, and the conversion process was slower. But once again, the visual benefits of Softspikes cleats ultimately caused operators to change from the old to the new.

Today, Softspikes is the undisputed leader in sales at both green-grass golf course shops and off-course retail establishments worldwide. And the brand is the most used on the professional tours in America. It is unlikely that Softspikes would be in existence today if its owners had decided to stay the course and act within golf’s traditional marketing paradigm. By charting a decidedly different course, the owners in essence became men of vision who were able to take a concept and transform it into one of golf’s greatest marketing stories. The message here is clear – sound execution comes from careful planning that does not always follow conventional wisdom.

Water Connects Life

We are rapidly awakening to how water affects all aspects of our life. How we use our water is not just about our future, but about our survival. Beyond the billions who do not have clean water, an emerging consciousness recognizes the critical nature of this universal solvent. Water is not just life; it connects and touches all living things. Less than one percent of the world’s water is presently consumable. How we share this precious liquid directly relates to peace and prosperity on this earth.

Just a century ago it was common for many to have to carry water. A woman in a developing country, on the average, must walk 6 kilometers each day to get freshwater. Water enables life more than a simple flush of the toilet or drink of water. So why must we better conserve water? Throughout the world both drought and lack of clean water is alarming. While most Americans take clean water for granted there are many who lack this essential amenity. This is becoming increasingly true for rural Americans who rely heavily on wells, and springs. Polluted water is more of a risk to children and the elderly who are more vulnerable. Each year hundreds of thousands of low-income American households do not have running water in their homes. Already one-third our world population or two billion people live without safe drinking water. With an additional people 2 billion projected to be born by 2030 water scarcity is a fact of life. Here and worldwide have experienced droughts and water shortages forcing us to reexamine water use.

An average person can survive months without food, but only days without water. Increasingly, we are appreciating how we depend on H20. Just think. Three fourths of our brain consists of this essential compound. One way to understand the value of water is to observe it in our own bodies. One-half to two-thirds of the human body is water. An average adult contains roughly 40 quarts of water and loses several quarts of water per day through normal elimination, sweating and breathing. Water helps rid the body of wastes, metabolize stored fats, and maintain muscle tone. We must begin to emulate how our bodies and the earth cycle water if we wish to maintain good health and prosperity. Ironically less than 1% of the world’s water is available to meet our constantly growing human needs. Ironically, many of us who drink bottled water do not fully realize where it comes from.

Increased awareness to stimulate water conservation and quality is critical to preserving our quality of life. At home, how we use this precious resource says it all. We drink less than 1% of our treated water while we use 99% in other ways. Our public water systems produce more than 180 gallons per day per person, more than seven times the per capita average in the rest of the world and nearly triple Europe's level. By comparison, the World Health Organization says good health require a total daily supply of about 8 gallons of water per person. We flush an average of 27 gallons per person per day of drinking water down our toilets, 17 gallons per day through our laundry and 14 gallons per day in our showers. Another tremendous use is of this valuable drinking source is watering our lawns. By switching to a landscape dominated by bushes and shrubs, as opposed to grass, you can reduce lawn watering by 80 percent. Simply installing a more efficient showerhead and faucet aerators will save about 7800 gallons of water per year in an average household. 60-90% of the world’s consumable water goes to irrigation.

Wasting drinking water magnifies water pollution.. Polluted runoff from agricultural operations, grazing, animal feeding operations, urbanization and other sources have been blamed for much of today’s water quality impairment. Such pollutants include siltation, nutrients, bacteria, oxygen-depleting substances, metals, pesticides, herbicides, toxic chemicals and other habitat altering materials.

As we deplete our water it becomes increasingly unlikely that we can stabilize water tables. It takes hundreds and hundreds of years for water to cycle back into new drinking water. Freshwater systems around the world are being degraded by urbanization, runoff, wetland loss, dams, diversions, and overuse, threatening our ability to support human, animal, and plant life.

U.S. Ground Water

Millions of Americans are unaware that water also comes out of the ground; the fundamental natural water purification system. Forty-seven percent of the U.S. population depends on ground water for its drinking water. Ground water is an important source of surface water. Its contribution to the overall flow of rivers and streams in the U.S. may be as large as 50 percent. It is also a major source of water for lakes and wetlands. Ground water is tapped through wells placed in water-bearing rocks and materials beneath earth’s surface. Precipitation and other sources replenish the ground water supply, but there are many increasingly drought conditions-where the rate of pumping exceeds the rate of replenishment.

There are nearly 15.9 million water wells serving U.S. households, cities, business, and agriculture every day. Forty-two million Americans rely on this private drinking water supply. Homeowners who have well water should schedule an annual maintenance check for their well, including testing the water for bacteria and any other potential water quality concerns. Water should also be tested any time there is a change in taste, odor or appearance, or anytime a water supply system is serviced.


We must protect our hydrologic balance for our blue planet. By observing how the intricate web of life works we can discover how to better nurture this vital, self-sustaining process and waste less.

How Americans address both water and how it affects the poor has global ramifications. Half the people of this world live on less than two dollars a day. The supply for enough water to serve agriculture, sanitation, industry and drinking is essential for a reasonable quality of life. Our burgeoning population and development will force every person to wiser water use. Unless we awaken to this issue our prosperity and security is in jeopardy. How we engage people to restore our water deserves a considerable attention. Protecting, and preserving our water is essential. We must venture into innovative ways that preserve and conserve water resources for future generations. Water is life!