Waste Disposal Practices:

A Threat to Health and the Nation's Water Supply

CED-78-120: Published: Jun 16, 1978. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1978.

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Millions of tons of waste are generated annually and disposed of on land because this is usually the cheapest method of waste disposal. Land disposal sites are often located in areas considered to have little value for other uses.

There has not been enough concern for soil or proximity to water resources in selecting land disposal sites. Leachate, a polluted liquid resulting when water comes in contact with waste, contaminates groundwater and creates a potential public health threat. Federal and state agencies have not assessed the extent of damage to groundwater supplies or determined the number of sites which may be leaching. Studies have been made only after wells have been contaminated. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that about 14,000 of the nearly 20,000 municipal wasteland disposal sites do not comply with state standards, and almost nothing is known of the over 100,000 industrial sites. State programs have been ineffective because of lack of staff and funds and because of the unavailability of alternative sites. Federal legislation aimed at improving waste disposal practices has not been effective enough because time frames for improvements have not been met, problems of existing groundwater contamination have not been addressed, and monitoring of drinking water systems does not include all contaminants.

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