For Immediate Release
(Wednesday, February 11, 2009): For More Information:
Neil Carman, PhD, Clean Air Director, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, 512-288-5772, firstname.lastname@example.org or Donna Hoffman, Communications Director, 512-477-1729
Sierra Club Urges Halt: EPA to Ship PCB Wastes to West Texas
Environmental Group Asks EPA to Prepare an EIS on Disposition of Dangerous Hudson River PCB Wastes
(Austin) - The Sierra Club today asked new U. S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator
Lisa Jackson to halt plans to transport thousands
of tons of New York's Hudson River PCBs to a hazardous
waste dump in Andrews County in West Texas. The environmental
group urged EPA to prepare an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) on the dangers of rail shipping such
an enormous volume of harmful PCB sediments nearly
2,000 miles and then "temporarily storing" them at a site that overlies sensitive underground water resources.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Jackson, leaders of the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter in Texas said that EPA needs to uphold environmental law by performing an EIS because PCBs are among the most dangerous chemicals known, and the proposed rail shipment poses a potential for serious accident hazards in or near dozens of urban areas and states through which trains would pass. One major rail accident could lead to a catastrophic contamination event if drums were breached and highly concentrated PCBs were released.
The Sierra Club noted that the train route is being kept secret from the public so people will not be informed if the train passing through their backyard is loaded with tons of dangerous PCB wastes.
The PCBs would come from a "clean-up" in which General Electric would remove and dispose of several million cubic feet of PCB contaminated sediments dredged from up to 200 miles of the polluted Hudson River. General Electric discharged as much as 1.3 million pounds of PCBs from the 1947 - 1977 into the Hudson River.
Shipping and disposing of the PCBs needs public input and opportunity for public participation from citizens and communities living along the entire train route from New York to Texas, says the Sierra Club, because of the threat posed to humans by PCBs. PCBs are a dangerous class of synthetic chemicals that bio-accumulate in the human body, impact the brain and nervous system, and cause a range of health effects such as cancer, immune suppression, reproductive damage, birth defects, thyroid disease, learning disorders, memory disorders, diabetes, and fetal death. PCBs were banned from manufacturing after Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976.
The Sierra Club said that the public has a right-to-know where the PCB trains are being routed. General Electric is asking for an exemption to the Federal law by discouraging EPA from requiring an EIS on the rail transport and storage in Texas. The West Texas dump site operator, Waste Control Specialists (WCS), may be seeking a fast-tracked process to receive the Hudson River PCBs without input from citizens in Texas who may be affected by the disposal plan. It appears the outgoing Bush EPA upper level administrators approved the shipment and disposal plan near the end of the Bush administration. WCS is part of a company owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, a prominent contributor to Republican Party candidates, including former President Bush.
"Without making any serious effort to evaluate the health and environmental risks that the Texas PCB disposal plan will create for the citizens of Texas, EPA proposes to allow General Electric to transport 2.65 million cubic feet of highly contaminated PCB wastes from New York and store them temporarily at a waste dump whose operator has already shown contempt for environmental concerns," said Neil Carman, Clean Air Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. "This scheme is unlawful and shows a disregard for the people who live in West Texas and the states through which the wastes would be transported from New York."
"EPA has other options that GE needs to consider," said Carman. "EPA been approving alternative treatment technologies to neutralize PCBs since 1994, and the agency's website lists a series of alternative ways to handle PCBs locally. It's possible Hudson River PCBs can be dechlorinated and neutralized at each location where they are removed, reducing serious shipping hazards by rail. PCB's are deadly carcinogens that cause cancer and birth defects and we already have too many PCBs in the environment and our food chains. Under new leadership EPA has the chance to emphasize alternatives to the outdated mindset of dumping hazardous wastes."