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Gulf of Mexico Oil Cleanup

Gulf of Mexico Oil Clean Up

Landfills Taking Oily Waste

BP contracted our services to assist with the cleanup of Gulf of Mexico oil spill debris. Waste Management is currently providing the people, equipment and containers for transportation and disposal support to the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil clean-up efforts. We are managing this process with care, caution and concern, paying heed to both state and federal regulations for this type of waste.

To be clear, through a rigorous analysis and review process that involves state and federal regulators, the waste material being picked up along the coastline has been characterized as non-hazardous waste. This is similar to the types of materials Waste Management has been properly and safely handling for decades. In addition, the landfills we’re using, including Pecan Grove in Mississippi, have been specifically permitted by the state of Mississippi’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to handle this type of non-hazardous waste. These engineered landfills include a range of safeguards and protective features to ensure that local communities are not affected by the disposal of non-hazardous oil-related cleanup waste. And Waste Management is following the proper environmental and safety guidelines for waste disposal specifically set forth for this situation by state and federal authorities. No oily waste is being brought from out of state.

For instance, before moving, treating or disposing of this material, our waste approvals team reviews data about its contents in advance. We compare that to all state and federal regulatory and permit requirements to ensure that requirements for safe handling and disposal of this material are carefully followed. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Waste Management receives the cleanup waste material from BP’s shoreline crews at a “drop zone.”
  2. At the drop zone, the DEQ characterizes whether or not the waste is hazardous or non-hazardous. Waste classifications are initially set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The oil material Waste Management is collecting and bringing to the permitted landfills is considered by the EPA to be non-hazardous special waste.  
  3. Once the waste has been characterized as non-hazardous, Waste Management then transports the approved materials to the landfill site.

Many of the safeguards at the landfills in use for cleanup efforts have been in place throughout the existence of these landfill sites. According to a recent study conducted by Geosyntec Consultants, modern municipal landfills are equipped with a variety of safety mechanisms to protect the surrounding environment.

“Scientific studies and testing have shown that the service life of typical synthetic materials used in liner construction (most commonly, high-density polyethylene membranes) is estimated to exceed a thousand years. Composite liner systems consisting of a synthetic membrane liner overlying a compacted clay layer, similar to those used at Subtitle D landfills, have been designed for radioactive waste depositories requiring the highest standards of containment for tens of thousands of years.”

In addition, we are experimenting with additional ways to dispose of oil waste without impacting our landfills. In the last month, we have begun to stockpile oily sand at Springhill and at Baldwin County landfill, so that instead of putting this material in the landfill, WM is evaluating biotreatment, composting and land farming options to clean the sand so that it can be beneficially reused. Additionally, we have also been permission by regulators to investigate options for cleaning and recycling oil booms for additional use in this clean-up effort.  We remain committed to finding various green solutions to address these issues.

We’re proud of the role we play in this effort and take this challenge seriously. Waste Management has nearly 4,200 employees in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. We live and work there, we raise our families there and we value our coastlines. This effort is vital to our communities’ health and well-being. Our focus remains on protecting the health and safety of Gulf residents, shorelines and local communities. I hope that local officials and the community will become familiar with our efforts to assist in the cleanup. Getting debris from the coastline to the finish line will help complete the Gulf cleanup.

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