It sounds like something out of Hollywood doesn't it. In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Times ran an article earlier this week about the “Lost Loads” of hazardous waste. According to the Times report the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) has lost track of 174,000 tons of hazardous material shipped for disposal in the last five years, more than 23,000 truck or tanker loads.
The State of California has some of the strictest rules in the nation on handling hazardous waste. It is estimated that 1.7 million tons of hazardous waste hits our roadways for disposal annually, and according to the laws on the books, the DTSC has the tracking authority for every ounce of it.
“The cornerstone is a "cradle to grave" tracking system that the state implemented in 1990 designed to protect people and the environment by documenting the whereabouts.” However according to the Times the system has some major flaws.
According to the Times investigation:
There are huge holes in the department's database. Regulators make only limited use of what information is available. And the system does not automatically flag potential problems.
The result: Regulators lose track of large quantities of toxic chemicals and cancer-causing metals.
The state database shows they were shipped but gives no indication they arrived at their intended destinations — many of which are out of state.
These so-called lost loads include more than 20,000 tons of lead, a neurotoxin; 520 tons of benzene, a carcinogen; and 355 tons of methyl ethyl ketone, a flammable solvent some in the industry call "methyl ethyl death."
The root of the problem appears to be the manner in which the State tracks hazardous waste shipments. They are still using a paper based process with manual data entry. Many manifests are simply unreadable by end users so they never get entered into the DTSC database.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to introduce a fully electronic manifest system that should fix the paper-records problem, department officials said. But that won't be until 2015, at the earliest.”
"I understand that it seems somewhat ridiculous in an electronic age that we are still working with paper," said Rick Brausch, chief of the hazardous waste management program.
Perhaps what is most disconcerting about this incident is the response by the DTSC:
"We don't know," said Debbie Raphael, director of the department, which has a $189-million budget and about 900 employees. "It's a question mark."
Raphael said the information gap "is concerning, absolutely." But she and other officials said that if a significant amount of toxic waste was being dumped illegally, they would hear about it through complaints from the public, reports from local authorities and other channels.
These people in Italy probably thought the same thing about the waste being dumped in their cities by the Italian Mafia. It was only after a large cluster of people developed cancer for light to be shed on their problem.
For California business you can bet that there will be a trickle-down effect as a result of this latest embarrassment and the DTSC will be looking much harder at what happens with your shipments. Avoid the fines and the hassles and do things the right way. Consult with a PROPERLY LICENSED and EXPERIENCED hazardous waste company to help you with your needs.