AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Hazardous wastes being shipped to the U.S. with no effective government controls


Stunning report: The U.S. accepts an estimated 90,000 tons a year of hazardous wastes from at least 8 foreign countries, but the EPA doesn't effectively control or monitor that waste, says a new federal report. As a consequence, it can't say exactly what wastes are coming in and where they are disposed, even though it has recognized that "shipments of hazardous waste into the U.S. pose potential risks for the public health and environment of our country."

Some shipments come in legally, but EPA doesn't verify the amount or what's in the shipment.

EPA notes in its response that its enforcement office is at its lowest staffing level  in 20 years, because of budget constraints. The report also notes that neither EPA nor U.S. Customs and Border Protection have explicit legal authority to prevent hazardous waste imports.

You might want to know why the U.S. accepts the imports. The report doesn't say. Nor does it detail how they're shipped and the sites where they're taken. The U.S. also ships some of its hazardous waste to other countries, according to the EPA website. You can read about our international waste agreements here.


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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.