Recession, recycling, contributed to drop
BOISE – Idaho generated far less hazardous waste in 2009 – 28.6 percent less – than the year before, and imported a third less.
An annual report to the governor and Legislature, released Monday, said Idaho businesses are doing a better job of generating less hazardous waste, from recycling to distillation to pollution prevention measures. However, much of the drop from 2008 to 2009, the report found, can be attributed to the economic downturn.
The vast majority of Idaho’s hazardous waste is shipped in from out of state to be disposed of at a major commercial hazardous waste landfill operated by US Ecology near Grand View in Southern Idaho. In 2009, 546,772 tons of hazardous waste was imported to the site – more than 100 times the total amount of hazardous waste generated within the state during the year, 5,055 tons.
That ratio is typical for Idaho in recent years, state officials said. “Most of the waste is coming from out of state,” said Brian Monson, hazardous waste program manager for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. “It’s good for Idaho, that our generators have a place to ship their stuff.”
The state also collects tipping fees on imported hazardous waste, earning several million dollars a year, more than enough to cover the operations of DEQ’s hazardous waste management program.
In 2009, most out-of-state waste – 340,638 tons – shipped into Idaho came from New Jersey. Missouri was the second-biggest exporter of waste to Idaho, at 68,892 tons; California was third at 37,536 tons.
Unlike in 2008, Idaho received no foreign waste except for 102.7 tons from Canada. In 2008, the state received 6,700 tons of radioactive sand from Kuwait, which was gathered up and shipped to Idaho after a U.S. Department of Defense weapons depot caught fire. The sand and soil were contaminated with depleted uranium from munitions that burned, but Monson said when state officials tested it on arrival, the levels of radioactivity in the soil and sand were lower than the background levels in soil in the Grand View area.
The annual report on hazardous waste is required by state law.
John Brueck, DEQ hazardous waste regulation and policy coordinator, said, “It’s one of the things we do to let the public and Legislature and governor know what’s going on with our program.”
The US Ecology facility is one of fewer than two dozen commercial hazardous waste dumps in the United States.