Published On: Fri, Mar 21st, 2014

Landfill loopholes not OK, says WV Environmental Council

A conference committee draft of a bill to overturn tonnage caps on landfills accepting drilling waste from the gas industry is unacceptable, and does not protect our water, according to a statement released this week by the West Virginia Environmental Council.

The bill (HB 4411) died on the last night of the legislative session, but news reports indicate that Governor Tomblin is considering including the bill in a special legislative session.

“Here they go again, listening to the polluters instead of those who advocate real environmental protection,” said Jim Kotcon, of the West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club. “If we learned anything this year, it is that listening to the polluters will not produce legislation to protect our environment, yet once again, key legislators continue to ignore input from the environmental community, and our regulatory agencies continue to provide misleading input to legislators.”

WVEC’s position is that municipal solid waste landfills are not designed to handle drilling wastes, which may contain heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, and radioactive materials.

“Just because loopholes were created in federal hazardous waste laws for drilling wastes, that does not mean these wastes are not hazardous,” said Kotcon. “I do not want radioactive wastes put into landfills upstream from my drinking water intake. These hazards will be there forever, and eventually will leak into our water. And those who claim that landfill leachate will get “treated” refuse to admit that there is no treatment facility that will remove these radioactive wastes.”

Existing laws limit the amount of waste that can be accepted by municipal waste landfills, but DEP Secretary Randy Huffman unilaterally told landfill operators to disregard those laws in a memo he sent to operators last year.

The West Virginia Environmental Council insists that specially designed facilities are needed for drilling wastes, that these need to be strictly monitored, and that existing laws regarding tonnage caps and local control of municipal waste landfills should remain intact.

“The solid waste laws providing for public referendums on landfill size were enacted by the legislature more than 20 years ago. Those laws did not contemplate that municipal solid waste landfills would be allowed to exceed their assigned tonnage limits by adding untreatable industrial wastes to their total assigned tonnage as approved by local Solid Waste Authorities and via public referendums,” said Frank Young, chair of the WV Environmental Council’s Government Affairs Committee.

“Our solid waste laws have worked well for over 20 years, and there is no need to ignore tonnage caps or to disregard siting plans established by local solid waste authorities,” said Don Garvin, WVEC legislative coordinator. “West Virginia can continue to enjoy the economic benefits of the gas industry, but we need to make sure the gas industry complies with the law.”

The West Virginia Environmental Council represents a united voice for over 50 environmental groups throughout West Virginia.