The Effects Of Toxic Waste Essay, Research Paper
?Research on Toxic Waste?
March 26, 2001
a.Story of Macomb County Farm
b.Explanation of farm situation
c.?Mismanagement of toxic waste is a problem that is plaguing the communities of both America and the world in the beginning of the twenty-first century.?
II.Extent of the Problem
a.Amount of toxic waste disposed (illegally)
b.Areas affected by the dumping of toxic waste
III.Causes of the problem
a.Types of toxic waste
b.People that dispose of waste
IV.Effects of the Problem
a.Destruction of Property
b.Degeneration of communities
c.Related deaths and injuries
V.Description of proposed solutions with steps to implement
a.Removal of waste from land
b.Cleansing of the land
VI.Discussion of the disadvantages of rejected solutions
VII.Evidence to support the solution & to counter possible objections
a.Expert opinion (found throughout the essay)
b.Public opinion (found throughout the essay)
Throughout time human beings have plagued the earth in which God bestowed upon us with hazardous man made materials that both destroy the soil, and the individuals that reside upon it. Mismanagement of toxic waste is an expanding problem that is affecting the communities of both America and the world in the beginning of the twenty-first century. In 1970 a man by the name of Frank Hornak owned, and managed a farm based on 24-mile road, and Foss road in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Around this date Macomb County approached Mr. Hornak in an attempt to purchase his property that consisted of eighty-five acres so that the property may be converted into a landfill to serve Macomb County. The transaction was made, thus leading to a nearly thirty -year battle for survival for the citizens surrounding the property, and total mutilation of the land area itself. Macomb County began dumping materials in early 1971, within a ten-year period of this date both the Hornak family, and the surrounding community came to the tragic realization that hazardous materials had been disposed of on this land. ?It started with one neighbor experiencing a red substance infiltrating her basement, and then another neighbor becoming ill?, all ultimately resulting in the untimely suffering and death of many innocent people [Hornak]. Recent studies have shown that the cause of this destruction was contamination of natural water wells with the seepage of hazardous waste. As for that eighty-five acre parcel of land, it is as of a recent year 2000 survey assessed at a negative one hundred and twenty-five million dollars [Spoutz].
Fact is more ominous than fiction that it has long been believed that the largest compilation of man made products brought upon the Earth by humankind is the Pyramid of the Sun, constructed in Mexico around the start of the Christian era. The gargantious structure occupies nearly thirty million cubic feet of space. In contrast, however, is the Durham Road Landfill, outside San Francisco, which occupies over seventy million cubic feet of the biosphere. ?It is a sad monument, indeed, to the excesses of modern society? [Gore 151]. One might assume such a monstrous mound of garbage is the largest thing ever produced by human hands. Unhappily, this is not the case. The Fresh Kills Landfill, located on Staten Island, is the largest toxic garbage dump in the world. This landfill commands the unbelievable elevation of 155 feet, an estimated mass of 100 million tons, and an unheard-of volume of over 2.9 billion cubic feet. In total acreage, it is equal to 16,000 baseball diamonds [Miller 526]. This landfill is projected to close in the year 2005, at this point it will have a projected elevation reaching a whopping 505 feet above sea level, making it the highest point along the Eastern Seaboard, Florida to Maine. Standing at that height, the mound will pose a hazard to air traffic at Newark airport located in New Jersey [Rathje 3-4]. Fresh Kills (Kills has been derived from the Dutch word for creek) was originally a tidal marsh.
In 1948, New York City planner Robert Moses developed a highly praised project to deposit municipal garbage in the swamp until the level of the land was above sea level. A study of the area predicted the marsh would be filled by the year 1968. He then planned to develop the area, building houses and attracting light industry. Mayor Impelliteri of New York issued a report titled “The Fresh Kills Landfill Project” in 1951. The report stated, in part, that the enterprise “cannot fail to affect constructively a wide area around it.” The report concluded by saying, “It is at once practical and idealistic” [Rathje 4]. One must appreciate the irony in the fact that Robert Moses was, in his day, considered a leading conservationist. His major accomplishments include asphalt parking lots throughout the New York metro area, paved roads in and out of city parks, and development of Jones Beach, now the most polluted, dirty, overcrowded piece of shoreline in the Northeast. In Stewart Udall’s book The Quiet Crisis, the former Secretary of the Interior lavishes praise on Moses. The JFK cabinet member calls Jones Beach “an imaginative solution … (the) supreme answer to the ever-present problems of overcrowding” [Udall 163-4]. John F. Kennedy?s introduction to the book provides this foreboding passage: “Each generation must deal anew with the raiders, with the scramble to use public resources for private profit, and with the tendency to prefer short-run profits to long-run necessities. The crisis may be quiet, but it is urgent” [Udall xii]. Surprisingly, the subject of toxically filled garbage dumps that greatly endanger the surrounding living breathing creatures is never touched in Udall’s book; in 1963, the issue was, in fact, not an issue at all.
A modern state-of-the-art sanitary landfill is a cemetery for garbage, and hazardous materials, where deposited wastes are compacted, spread in thin layers, and covered daily with clay or synthetic foam. The modern dump is lined with multiple, impermeable layers of clay, sand, and plastic before any waste is deposited. This liner is placed in an attempt to prevent liquids, called leachates, from penetrating into the groundwater. Leachates are a result from the combination of rainwater and garbage, making a highly toxic “juice” containing inks, heavy metals, and other poisonous compounds. Ideally, leachates are pumped up from collection points along the bottom of the fill area and either shipped to liquid waste disposal points (such as the Hornak farm listed above) or re-introduced into the upper layers of garbage, to resume the cycle. Unfortunately, most dumping sites posses no such pumping system [Miller 527]. Until the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency by United States President Richard Nixon in 1970, there were virtually no regulations governing the construction, operation, and closure of hazardous material dumping sites. As a result, 85 percent of all landfills extant in this country remain to this day unlined. Many are located in close proximity to aquifers or other groundwater features, or near geologically unstable sites. Many older dumps are leaching toxins into our water supply at this very moment, with no way to stop them. For example, the Fresh Kills dump leaks an estimated one million gallons of toxic ooze into the surrounding water table every day [Miller 527]. Sanitary dumps do offer certain advantages. The daily cover of clay or other material dramatically reduces offensive odors, the absolute given of the old city dump. Vermin and insects, both of the terrestrial and airborne breeds, are denied a free meal and the opportunity to spread disease, by the clay layer implemented by the modern sanitary. Furthermore, modern dumping sites are less of an eyesore than their counterparts of the past. However, the causality of these positive affects is the very reasons for some of the significant drawbacks to dumping areas [Turk and Turk 486]. The daily compacting and covering of the garbage deposits effectively squeezes the available oxygen out of the material. Whatever aerobic bacteria are present in the garbage are soon suffocated and the decomposition ceases to exist. Anaerobic bacteria, by their very nature, are not present in significant numbers in the atmosphere that we reside. What few manage to enter and survive in the garbage deposits are extremely slow acting, and have the tendency perform little in the way of break down in the materials. In other words, rather than the giant compost heap most people imagine, a toxic material dumping area is actually a huge mummification center. Hot dogs and bananas, decades old; have been recovered from dumps, still recognizable in their mummified splendor [Rathje 111-12]. What little decomposition does occur in dumping sites generates vast amounts of methane gas, one of the significant greenhouse effect gasses. Some dumps posses built-in processes to reclaim the methane gas in which the products buried create and then ultimately discharge. The Fresh Kills dumping site pipes methane gas directly into thousands of homes, but in most instances, the gas is either burned off or leaked directly into the atmosphere. In 1987, the methane count was 1.7 ppm [McKibben 17-17]. The modern dump does not alone in its defiance of decomposition. The excavation in 1884 of an ancient Roman dump had to be halted periodically so the workers could get fresh air; so unbearable was the stench from the still-extant refuse [Rathje 113]. In today’s dumps, decomposition is negligible. While the total tonnage of garbage decreases over years, due mostly to desiccation, the volume varies less than ten percent. Most of the actual short-term rotting is from scraps of prepared food. Plastics do not biodegrade at all. Biodegradable plastic is an oxymoron at best; the unstable plastic that is produced requires intense sunlight to reach a state of decomposition, and sunlight is denied in a sanitary dumping site. Newspapers from before World War Two are still readable; they have, in fact, become important date markers for scientists examining garbage strata in dumping areas [Rathje 112-13]. The public is sadly misinformed as to what comprises the bulk of municipal garbage. A typical survey shows that the average American sees the disposable diaper as the number one culprit for the premature closing of our dumps. This is a sad and costly misconception. According to the most recent scientific studies, disposable diapers account for only 0.53 to 1.28 percent of all dumping site deposits, by volume [Rathje 162-63].
The burning garbage and dumping garbage at sea are unacceptable, what are the alternatives? Of the dumping sites, sanitary and otherwise, open for business in 1979, 85 percent are now closed [Miller 527]. Where is all the garbage going? Some municipalities are shipping garbage to other cities, or even other states, a costly proposition. Larger metropolitan agencies have even taken to shipping garbage to third world countries, strapped for cash and eager for the infusion of Yankee dollars. This, of course, only transfers the problem from one population to the other. Stories of wandering garbage barges and orphaned garbage trains have made splashes in American newspaper headlines. Covert garbage disposal has become a lucrative business, as the plethora of medical waste washed up along the New Jersey shoreline proves (hypodermic needles, bandages, etc?). These anecdotes, while shocking and perversely entertaining, are hardly representative. Recycling really is making a difference. Newspapers, which used to make up 25 to 40 percent of the garbage volume of a typical city, are now effectively banned from household garbage. Aluminum can recycling has become a profitable sideline, both for economically disadvantaged and for the average homeowner trying to offset the ever-increasing cost of garbage collection. Construction waste is now barred from dumpsites in most areas; this high volume material is now recycled or put to Earth-friendly uses, such as making barrier reefs. Plans for the safe incineration of refuse to generate electric power have presented some highly contentious issues. The ash from such incinerators is normally highly toxic, since it concentrates existing toxins, and must be disposed of as such. Citizens object to these plants, in a frenzy of Not-In-My-Backyard syndrome.
As long as human beings have cultured and matured in the way we can recognize them today waste management has been a problem. Just recently since the human race has discovered ways to distort the molecular structure of Gods creation, have we been faced with difficulties on how to deal with what we call toxic waste. A clear-cut answer is probably non-existent, although it was said by an anonymous figure ?if you want to project what will take place in the future, simply look to the past?. Several effective programs, enacted in unison, will probably lead us to success.
Gore, Vice President Alfred. Earth in the Balance. New York: Houghton, 1995.
Hornak, Rosemary. Personal Interview. 11 March 2001
MacKibben, Bill. The End of Nature. New York: Random House, 1998.
Miller, G. Tyler, Jr. Living in the Environment. Belmont CA: Wadsworth, 1996. Rathje, William and Cullen Murphy. Rubbish! New York: Harper, 1995.
Spoutz, Elmer. Personal Interview. 10 March 2001.
Turk, Jonathan. Environmental Science. New York: Holt, 1999.
Udall, Stewart. The Quiet Crisis. New York: Holt, 1963.
Spoutz, Elmer. Personal Interview. 10 March 2001.