Group Pushes for Technology to Detoxify Local Asbestos Waste

The CT Post explains that a Stratford, Connecticut group of citizens “concerned about toxic waste in town is pushing the EPA to study and determine whether a relatively new technology that neutralizes asbestos can be used to detoxify dump sites in the city.” The article reports that this environmental risk is the result of discarded Raymark waste. The Post goes on to explain that the process being proposed by the local citizens is known as thermochemical conversion technology and it actually “neutralizes not just asbestos, but all organic compounds.” In addition, this technology is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which the Connecticut news source explains is managing this site’s cleanup. The article explains that this technology was created by Seattle-based ARI Technologies and works by destroying “the very atoms that make up asbestos through a heating process.” According to the news source, since 1999, four other hazardous sites have been remediated with this technology. These sites include the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and a West Virginia U.S. Department of Energy site. Geologist and president of ARI Technologies, Dale Timmons, explains that by destroying every asbestos fiber and detoxifying the waste, clean soil fill is created which can then be recycled and used later. However, resident support for using this technology to detoxify the waste site has highlighted a rift between the local citizenry and regulators, who contend that this process is too expensive. Instead, the article explains that regulators have “advocated for a method called capping where waste is buried beneath layers of clean soil and other materials.”  This barrier’s purpose is to prevent human contact with the dangerous materials, as well as keep it out of the water table. The article explains that the Stratford Superfund site already possesses “a permanent cap and three temporary caps,” though another permanent cap is also being planned. Tom Smith, the co-founder of Save Stratford, a local group organized to address this environmental risk, points out that utilizing this technology to permanently destroy these fibers will save the ongoing governmental costs of maintaining the caps. According to Smith these costs total hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, the CT Post reports. Timmons, the man who patented this technology, explained that his process is far superior because all caps eventually fail through erosion. Every failure then releases toxins back into communities, he explains. Though initially more expensive, the article explains this technology is ultimately more cost effective due to the continual upkeep needed on the temporary caps. According to the article, Smith “calculates a machine would cost about $20 million.” However, according to the CT Post, an EPA remediation fund which has been set aside for this site currently holds about $21 million, meaning the use of this technology appears to be within reach of the town. Following a discussion with Timmons earlier this year, the mayor of Stratford, John A. Harkins, explained he is hopeful this technology will be approved by the EPA to treat the town’s toxic site. According to the mayor, the town is currently awaiting the results of an internal review of the ARI technology the EPA is conducting.
References:
  • Lyte, Brittany. (November 27, 2011) “Citizen group pushing for new way to detoxify Raymark waste.” Retrieved on November 28, 2011 from the CT Post.
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