Last Summer, Jim Beller of the Rogersville Review reported on radioactive contamination in the Carter’s Valley landfill. No, not the kind of contamination caused by leftover portions of Uncle Bob’s Mean Bean Hellfire Chili (although the substance can eat through melamine plates and damage tooth enamel.)
Back in May, officials from the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) reported that Tennessee landfills were accepting low-level radioactive waste under the Bulk Survey for Release (BSFR) program, which is administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. (TDEC) There were concerns that potential leaks and unmonitored pollutants in leachate could contaminate groundwater. Given that many families in the area rely on untreated/natural water sources, this was a serious issue.
However, it wasn’t a problem faced by Hawkins County alone.
In keeping with state’s tradition of being a freakin’ environmental nightmare, the NIRS reported at least five solid waste landfills in Tennessee had been approved by the TDEC to take deregulated nuclear waste. Four of these landfills are owned by BFI (Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. now a subsidiary of Allied Waste.) These landfills are BFI Middle Point landfill in Rutherford County, BFI Carter’s Valley landfill in Hawkins County. BFI South Shelby landfill in Memphis and BFI North Shelby landfill in Millington. The Chestnut Ridge Landfill and Recycling Center in Anderson County, owned by Waste Management Inc. of Tennessee also takes released radioactive waste.
The problem is that Tennessee has been an Agreement State since 1965. This means the state has the authority to license activities involving byproduct materials, source materials, and special nuclear materials in quantities not sufficient to form a critical mass. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Radiological Health has over 600 licensees, some for processing and some for release of radioactive materials, sites or wastes from regulatory control. The state also licenses over 150 transporters.
(Apparently, our agreement state will agree to just about any damned thing.)
Tennessee’s lax standards and their ability to control and regulate waste (without public knowledge) has prompted other states, which actually do have regulations, to bypass all requirements by shipping their waste to Tennessee. In short, we are a dumping ground because the Solid Waste Advisory Committee operates with the general attitude: “If you’ll pay us money, we’ll take your radiation-enriched shit, declare it “special” and dump it near some hillbillies, who’ll think the six toes is caused by inbreeding. If someone grows a third eyeball, we’ll blame Oak Ridge, Eastman, the TVA or Extra Terrestrials! Now, let’s git `er done.”
Of course, according to the folks, who issue the licenses, the program is, theoretically for now and possibly in the future harmless. And to the best of their knowledge, which is based on some studies likely conducted by the state, the LLRW management policies will probably have no immediate impact. Alas, given that we have no clue what materials are being accepted into our landfills and the information is not required by law to be open for public inspectionand results of testing from those sites TDEC monitors annually or bi-annually are not available to the public: how do we know this has no impact?
When a local Nashville news station conducted their own testing of groundwater around the Middle Point Landfill, they found serious contamination. Once the state’s pitiful waste management policies made it onto television, the Tennessee General Assembly mandated deliberation of the Tennessee program that allows dumping low-level radioactive waste in commercial landfills and issued a moratorium on LLRW dumping. There were no real changes made as to monitoring or public disclosure. The committee recommendations for the General Assembly deal primarily with alleviating fear by increasing communication between the state and public. For TDEC’s response to citizen’s concerns, read here.
However, Allied has announced that the facility at Middle Point will no longer accept low-level radioactive waste. This decision might have something to do with the group of very vocal and proactive citizens, which protested the dumping in their area. However, with Middle Point no longer accepting waste, this leaves four facilities in the program. How will Allied offset the loss of one of their three facilities from the state program? Shift the waste they are contracted to accept to another Allied-controlled landfill? Like BFI in Carter’s Valley?
I truly think Hawkins County residents should follow the example of those Middle Point folks… or we could just sit around and do nothing, which would be easier… especially after that mutant, deformed third ass cheek grows in.
If you are in the mood to read something scary? Check out the report by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.