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Toxic Waste Disposal and Landfill Gas Issues in Sandy Superstorm Aftermath

Those responsible for toxic waste disposal are working alongside the other public bodies to clear up the damage from the recent Sandy Superstorm (hurricane) in the eastern states of the US.

If you are wondering just what these substances comprise here is a list (quoted from the articles below):

The hazardous materials collected by the EPA include: household cleaners, paints and related products, automotive fluids, batteries, lawn and garden-care products beauty products and medicines, fuel and oil tanks, misc – fluorescent lights, mercury thermometers, photographic chemicals, lighter fluids, shoe polish, fiberglass epoxy, swimming pool chemicals, moth balls, glue and mercury batteries.

That is quite a list to be getting to grips with!
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Toxic household waste clean-up continues in Long Beach

Long Island Report

“Hurricane Sandy washed thousands of barrels of toxic household waste out of Long Beach homes during the devastating storm on Oct. 29. An EPA team working with private contractors has been collecting these toxic materials since mid-November, and is …”

Inevitably, from such a major storm a large quantity of toxic waste was washed out of flooded houses during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

However, toxic waste may not be the only headache for the authorities. Superstorm Sandy may yet have a delayed and unexpected “sting”, warns waste management engineer Steve Last, who has investigated landfill gas migration explosion incidents in the past and thinks that more may now occur due to old landfills where floodwater has entered due to flooding.

He has pointed out that the affected area has one of the largest concentrations of old abandoned landfill sites in the world'.

In fact, in this area there are undoubtedly many thousands of such sites. It would pose a significant risk if only a few of them now have become re-activated as landfill gas proeucing sites, by an influx of moisture say from flooding, or the erosion of surface capping.

If so, these un-engineered and usually unlined sites would start to emit landfill-gas and in certain circumstances gas migration into nearby homes may occur. This could cause a significant risk of injury or even death to those living in some susceptible properties.

However, as we have highlighted here with both toxic waste, and the potential for landfill gas explosions and other future less dramatic landfill gas migration risks, what will matter now is the care that each community takes to alleviate these risks by appropriate action.

In the past these wastes would have been taken to a toxic waste dump but nowadays there are often opportunities to recycle or incinerate these wastes without environmental damage. Toxic waste sites are better controlled than in the past and toxic waste removal is routine as a part of hazardous waste disposal after natural disasters. It is surprising how much hazardous waste storage is present in ordinary garages, sheds and basements. Hazardous waste recycling is growing but household toxic waste disposal could do with more publicity to raise public awareness and to minimize the effects of toxic waste disposal.

There is a more in-depth discussion of landfill gas hazards here.

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