Hillsboro Landfill Inc., owned by Waste Management, has been fined $6,400 by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for improperly covering waste containing asbestos.
Although Hillsboro is legally allowed to remove asbestos, state agency inspectors discovered on January 14th that the company did not cover asbestos-containing waste with the minimum 12 inches of dirt required.
“There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, which can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis,” according to the DEQ.
In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “hazardous waste” as “liquid, solid, contained gas, or sludge wastes that contain properties that are dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment, aka asbestos.
Exposure to hazardous waste is a serious health concern as asbestos exposure can be most devastating when it results in the diagnosis of mesothelioma. Asbestos waste must be disposed of in designated landfills, where the area is prepped for asbestos waste in an effort to limit environmental exposures, and the waste is then sealed to prevent human exposure.
Hazardous waste is often removed and placed in a designated hazardous waste landfill. These are landfills that have been designed by the federal government with a run-on control system, along with a runoff management system and a wind dispersal management system (if it’s up to government standards).
These hazardous waste landfills must be covered with a particular mix of soil or other methods to protect the nearby environment and residents living in close proximity.
However, asbestos waste must go in landfills with designated areas, also known as Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) Landfills. An active ACM Landfill may have the presence of asbestos fibers in the air, and therefore, it is monitored very closely to ensure fibers aren’t escaping into the air.
If the EPA determines emissions are present, then the waste needs to be covered with at least six inches of non-asbestos materials. A suppression agent can also be applied to the area.
An inactive ACM Landfill has no detectable asbestos emission in the air. With both types of ACM Landfills, warning signs must be present in order to alert people of asbestos in the area and let workers know they need to take caution.
“We are committed to full compliance with environmental regulations to protect the environment as well as the health and safety of our employees,” stated Waste Management spokesperson Jackie Lang. “Our environmental track record has been strong over the years at this site, and we are continuously training staff to ensure compliance.”
Hillsboro has appealed the fine and commented its training has been changed to “more clearly” meet DEQ standards.