For Immediate Release:
For more information contact:
Laurie Valeriano or Erika Schreder, Washington Toxics Coalition,
206-632-1545 ext. 14 or 19
Jonathan Stier, National Environmental Law Center, 206-568-2853
EPA PLANS TO CRACK DOWN ON TOXIC WASTE IN FERTILIZER
New Rules will Help Protect our Food Supply and the Environment from Toxic Pollution
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2000 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took an important first step toward making our food and farms safer by agreeing to propose new rules on the use of hazardous waste in certain fertilizers. The agency will also seek public comment on a sweeping reform plan that would prohibit dioxin wastes in fertilizers. Most people are shocked to learn that hazardous wastes are used in making fertilizer, and that such practices have been virtually unregulated. This landmark agreement settles a 1998 lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and the Washington Toxics Coalition.
"We're pleased that EPA will finally take steps to halt the dumping of highly contaminated industrial wastes on American farms and gardens," said Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra Club's waste committee.
Under the agreement filed in federal court Wednesday, EPA will propose standards for metals such as arsenic and lead in zinc fertilizers made from hazardous waste. Regulators will also propose closing a major fertilizer loophole for dioxin-laden steel mill waste, and the agency will formally ask the public whether the government should ban all dioxin-contaminated wastes from fertilizers.
"Our food supply should not be used as a dumping ground for dioxin and lead from smokestacks," said Laurie Valeriano, Policy Director for the Seattle-based Washington Toxics Coalition. "EPA is right to propose ending special treatment for steel mill wastes and to regulate other metals going into zinc fertilizer."
The groups sued EPA when regulators exempted zinc fertilizers from recently tightened metals standards. Under the terms of the settlement, EPA will propose the new rules by November 2000, and take final action by April 2002.
Details of the settlement include:
* EPA will ask the public to comment on a comprehensive reporting and tracking system for hazardous wastes being made into fertilizer.
* EPA will propose technology-based standards for zinc fertilizers, so that all zinc fertilizer manufacturers will meet standards based on the best available technology;
* EPA will ask the public whether the government should stop all wastes contaminated with dioxin from being made into fertilizer;
* EPA will ask the public whether the government should close a loophole that now exempts toxic mining wastes from hazardous waste rules; and,
* EPA will propose standards for dioxin in waste-derived fertilizer.
"This agreement directly involves the public in getting toxic waste out of fertilizer," commented National Environmental Law Center attorney Jonathan Stier, who represents the plaintiffs. "Industries abuse the nation's recycling and pollution laws when they dump toxic waste on the land as fertilizer, and today's settlement is the first step toward stopping this sham."
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For more information on the hazardous-waste-to-fertilizer trade, call the contacts listed above or visit the following sites on the World Wide Web: http://www.watoxics.org/tf.htm (for background information), www.ewg.org (for Environmental Working Group, "Factory Farming" Report) and www.seattletimes.com (Seattle Times, "Fear in the Fields: How Hazardous Wastes Become Fertilizer" series, beginning 7/3/97).