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Federal Judge Blocks Shipment Of Contaminated Texas Dirt To Alabama

October 21, 1988

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency violated its own rules in approving the shipment of 47,000 tons of toxic Texas soil to an Alabama landfill, a federal judge said Friday as he temporarily blocked the transfer.

U.S. District Judge Robert Varner said federal officials failed to properly notify Alabama that the EPA had approved the shipment of PCB-contaminated dirt from Houston to Chemical Waste Management Inc.’s west Alabama disposal facility.

Truck shipments from the Geneva Industries site in Texas to the Emelle landfill were to begin Saturday.

The Texas site, contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, is part of the federal Superfund cleanup program. PCBs once were commonly used in electrical transformers as a coolant but have since been banned.

The Alabama landfill is the nation’s largest commercial hazardous waste disposal site.

Chris Grimshawe, a spokesman with Chemical Waste Management, said the company had a $16.1 million contract to dispose of the 2,000 truckloads of dirt. He said the amount of PCBs actually contained in the soil would fill one tractor-trailer rig.

″We have had bigger, but it’s a pretty good size contract,″ he said.

Bradley Bridgewater, a Justice Department attorney representing the EPA, argued Alabama was not included under EPA guidelines governing the shipment of toxic wastes, and therefore, no warning was needed.

Varner dismissed the claim.

″Do you think that the split end who catches a forward pass is an affected party? Certainly he is,″ Varner said. ″It seems to me that Alabama ... is a receiving state to the toxic waste.″

Varner did not rule on whether the PCB shipments posed an environmental hazard. But, he said, ″With an EPA director who did not follow the law (in approving the shipment), I’m afraid there may be.″

Varner said he would hear arguments as soon as next week on whether to extend the prohibition, requested by Gov. Guy Hunt and state Attorney General Don Siegelman.

Siegelman, who attended the hearing, praised the ruling, while Hunt, attending a trade meeting in South Carolina, had no immediate comment.

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