Lead From e-Waste Ending Up In Alaskan Waters
Photo via Alaskan Dude via Flickr CC
A little reminder on why dumping e-waste is really bad. Toxic junk from TVs and gadgets in Alaska's Anchorage Regional Landfill is pumped out of the dump, and ends up in the ocean. George Bryson of Anchorage Daily News covered a story about how the landfill is seeing more and more televisions and electronics ending up in the dump, where there is no law against throwing e-waste into landfills. He describes, though, what happens as the devices break down and toxic chemicals like lead is left to seep out as leachate.
Does the toxic seepage (called leachate) stay in the landfill? No.
Six to seven times each weekday, workers pump the polluted water from a landfill lagoon into 6,000-gallon tanker trucks and haul it to an Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility sewage receiving station.
About 39,000 gallons arrive there each week day, said AWWU assistant general manager Brett Jokela. Almost 8.9 million gallons last year... It's no secret that Anchorage pipes its sewage, which undergoes only primary treatment, into the ocean.
Sends a bit of a shiver down your spine. About 1/3 of the lead that ends up in the treatment plant is dissolved in a lead solution and heads into Cook Inlet. Because strong tides carry away much of the junk, the ocean water is within pollution standards and that along with some other loopholes, means the EPA allows it to happen. While this particular practice is within EPA standards, and that makes us question EPA's standards of allowing any toxic material at all to make it into the water.
According to Bryson, the remaining lead in the treatment plant is processed, but ends up either as ash in an incinerator and back in the landfill, as gas captured in the incerator's exhaust scrubber and back in the treatment plant, or as gas that escapes into the atmosphere above the city - a situation that also is within EPA pollution standards, but also not something that makes us feel all that comfortable.
If we needed any reminder on why it's so important to properly recycle electronics, we have it right here. The EPA may say the situation isn't toxic enough to worry about, but we have to stop and question why any devices with toxic materials are heading to landfills when we know the gook will end up in our air and water, and much of it sitting at the bottom of landfills.