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No EPA Fines for Toxic Munitions Sites

The persistence of open burning sites casts the EPA in a hypocritical light.

Browsing through the Environmental Protection Agency’s website offers a look at some of their proudest accomplishments over the last year.

This includes the $14.7 billion Volkswagen settlement stemming from emissions tests cheating.

The government agency also touts its role in Enbridge, the owner/operator of oil pipeline in the Great Lakes region, having to spend $110 million on leak detection and monitoring measures, and enforcing the company’s $62 million in penalties for oil spills.

Then there’s the $5.5 billion penalty for BP and their Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

Now whether or not you agree with the penalty, in each of these situations, there was wrong-doing that needed policing. And again, regardless of your feelings on the role of government agencies, the job of entities like the EPA – has become enforcing government regulations.

That’s why a recent report from ProPublica makes the EPA look rather hypocritical. You see, there are a number of sites around the U.S. run by the government or a contractor for the disposal of old bullets, bombs and related waste.

Now, just to be clear, ammunition and explosive ordnance is made from some pretty nasty materials – the kind of stuff that can cause cancer, thyroid disorders and brain disease if it was say, released into the air via a practice that was outlawed more than 30 years ago. A process like open burning.

Open burns are basically when you throw everything into a big pit and let fire do its thing. As ridiculous as it sounds today, it was common practice even up through the 1970s. But since then manufacturers have been required to install equipment and adhere to strict guidelines when disposing of chemical waste to ensure proper disposal of these toxic chemicals.

The Department of Defense and its contractors, on the other hand, were given a temporary reprieve. And despite a Senate resolution almost 25 years ago that halted this reprieve, ProPublica states there are nearly 200 sites around the U.S. that use the open burn process for disposing of ordinance.

If not for special permits from the EPA, these sites would have been subject to thousands of violations for improperly storing and disposing of toxic material, and exceeding pollution thresholds.

In the DoD’s defense, nearly $42 billion has been spent in cleaning up these open burn sites and purchasing clean-burning incinerators, but the process still continues in communities throughout the U.S.

I’m Jeff Reinke and this is IEN Now.

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