Bp Disaster Trash, Where is it all going?

The more I dig in to the oily trash issue the stickier it gets (no pun intended). There are two basic things you need to know about the BP disaster trash. First, there is a lot of trash but the amount will not come anywhere near the amount of trash generated after Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Second, there are lots of different kinds of trash and each type has a different special final resting place (all of which are located on-shore in Gulf coast states).To find out how all this waste is being handled, I met up with the Coast Guard, the EPA, and De-Con expert Big Joe at the waste staging site on Grand Isle, LA. The trash comes in to the site from boats, gets unloaded at the dock and then gets separated into three different categories: solid waste, liquid waste, and recyclable. The solid waste then heads into a gigantic machine labeled “The Big Squeeze”. As you may imagine, large piles of trash get squished into tiny little boxes of trash. These head to an approved Type I Industrial Landfill (list of approved sites forthcoming from EPA).The liquid waste is funneled into the giant, red liquid separator tanks where the oil is divided out from the water waste. Not-so toxic water gets carted off to a wastewater discharge plant and the oil gets re-used. The exceptionally contaminated wastewater gets shipped off to Texas to be injected into a toxic wastewater injection well. Recyclables, like rescued Booms, get washed, folded, and re-deployed.The EPA is requiring BP to test the trash for toxicity and EPA is also conducting supplemental testing to ensure BP’s tox results. So far, none of the trash has been labeled “Hazardous”. This means that the trash heading to our landfills will not leak (or leach) and will not release fumes that could catch fire. It does not mean the trash is not toxic or dangerous which is why it is going to Type I Industrial landfills and not our very own Municipal landfills.All of this information has come from EPA, an agency that I believe is trying to be transparent and on the ball. So, if any of the above does not describe your personal experience please send me an email ASAP so we can follow up with the proper authorities.Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Assistant Director of Water Resources for the Gulf Restoration Network and can be reached at casey@healthygulf.org

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