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One of the most hazardous waste disposal sites in the United States is in Alabama, Sumter County, near a village called Emelle. Waste Management Inc., a North American waste management company, owns this hazardous waste disposal site through its subsidiary, Chemical Waste Management. A flashback of the intrigues of the people of Sumter County can help to shed light on what led to the establishment of this chemical waste disposal site back in 1978. Statistically, the third of the residents of Sumter Country are poor, with the population being predominantly black. During the 1960s when racial segregation was prevalent in the United States, government and business elites took advantage of this segregated poor community to start hazardous waste industry in the area. What prevailed was the establishment of polluting industries among the minority community using the argument of providing jobs for the locals. It is in this light that Chemical Waste Management established a hazardous waste disposal site in 1978 with an initial purchase of 300-acre landfill permit – currently consuming 2700 acres of land (Umich, 2007).
Hazardous waste, of which chemical waste is a part, is a form of waste that poses significant both present and future threat to human, environment, or both if poorly managed. Waste is regarded as hazardous largely due to its physical or chemical attributes that are not compatible with either the human or the environment. In our case, Emelle’s waste dumpsite in Sumter, Alabama, is extremely hazardous; the nature of waste that has been deposited over the years fit this stated description ‘hazardous waste’. By 1991, slightly over a decade since its inception, this dumpsite had received a conservative six million tons of hazardous waste. In the course of its operation, this dumpsite has experienced massive on-site fires and serious off-site water contamination in addition to numerous federal government fines due to the violation of environmental rules (Umich, 2007).
Since the establishment of this dumpsite in 1978, its implications on the health of the neighboring human populations and the environment have been a matter of concern among many stakeholders. One, the workers of this Alabama dumpsite have claimed that they risk being exposed to health hazards (Hackman & Hackman, 2006). This is mainly caused by the actions, or sometimes inactions, of the superiors who do not overlook waste sampling in addition to being involved with other malpractices. Workers claim that the company’s approach of rushing to put into a hole any waste regardless of its nature was posing as a real health threat to them. Another concern has arisen out of the companyrsquo;s burying of chemicals without adhering to the laid down damping regulations – mapping of waste locations, adequate spacing, testing, and inspecting incoming waste containers. Furthermore, Chemical Waste Management has been found to be in violation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) regulations as evidenced by cracks in the waste storage stores and numerous spillages (Umich, 2007).
As a result, wells, ditches, and swamps surrounding the landfill have been positively detected with cancer-causing PCBs that have subsequently leached from dumpsites into water suppliers. True, poor management of such an enormous hazardous waste exposes the poor neighboring populations to cancer – a fatal disease in the contemporary global medical landscape. In 1984, this landfill demonstrated another form of threat it continues to pose to the neighboring community (Wang, 2007). During October of this year, a reddish-brown cloud of acidic vapor with components of sodium hydroxide was produced from the landfill and floated a half mile from the site of the landfill. In April the following year, workers had to be evacuated after a fire that suddenly emerged from among the waste components. A burst pipe, failure to dispose an unknown amount of hazardous military DDT waste, on-site and off-site spills – Chemical Waste Management Company has an endless list of violating environmental safety rules and regulations.
Ideally, the above highlighted challenges of disposing chemical wastes can be minimized if the responsible company follows the laid down rules and regulations. One, when disposing chemical wastes, they should not be mixed with other forms of waste like radioactive or bio-hazardous ones (Hackman & Hackman, 2006). Two, flushing down the drain hazardous liquids as a method of disposal is a dangerous and illegal practice. This exposes the neighboring inhabitants to undue dangers. Three, fires, explosions, and spills are evaded by avoiding mixing of incompatible chemical components. In terms of proper packaging and labeling, the waste generator should bear the primary responsibility (Wang, 2007). In this regard, waste bearing suspicious labels, or packing techniques, should not be removed until they are properly identified. Still important, explosives, PCBs, and organic chemicals are materials that require special handling (Hackman & Hackman, 2006).
When addressing chemical waste, containers become critical. A container that stores chemical products is expected to be undamaged in addition to being properly sealed. When the chemical wastes stored in these containers are in liquid form, one should ensure that they are not filled to give an allowance for expansion. In effect, this serves to lower the chances of a potential spill from overfilled containers (Wang, 2007). Science also comes in handy – chemical waste must be compatible with the container in which it is placed. For example, a glass container cannot be used to store hydrochloric acid. Use of labels, on the other hand, is a form of caution that prevents an individual from mixing chemical wastes that can lead to incompatible reaction. On the labels of waste products, some information is fundamental – exact generic names of waste product in the container and elaborate information on the source of the chemical waste. Containers with unidentified information should not be removed under any circumstance (Environmental Health Safety, 2011).
I came to know about this landfill of hazardous waste at Emelle, Alabama, when I searched it on the Internet. I came to learn literally everything about this waste disposal from the online resources available. My learning of the existence of this dumpsite brought mixed reactions to me. I must start by stating that having an officially and nationally recognized dumpsite that is hazardous to both humans and the environment in the contemporary American society is critical. Nevertheless, the prevailing conditions that informed the establishment of this facility, as indicated earlier in this work, are quite emotive. The establishment of such a facility in a society of a minority, the aspect of workers being significantly underpaid by these polluting industries, and the fact that over 40 states, in addition to the military, bring their waste here paint a grim picture of the concerned authority’s perception of the local community. My opinion is that racism and the presence of this facility in Emelle are, either directly or indirectly, connected (Umich, 2007).
From a personal perspective, Chemical Management Company cannot effectively run this Alabama waste disposal site without seeking a redress of some of the issues afflicting its running of the facility. One, this Emelle waste facility is apparently overwhelmed by the incoming waste. In short, it is getting more than it can handle. Decentralization has in many instances proved to be an effective approach, and as such, all the states bringing their hazardous waste should politely seek for another site. Two, the government manipulation in disposal of unwarranted military nuclear waste in this site should cease for the benefit of the surrounding community and the environment. Lastly, professionalism should define the running of such a vital facility in the modern society. Those in charge should give the workers a due protection, follow all the laid down regulations, and exhibit incorruptible characters (Wang, 2007).