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Hazardous Waste Sites in the United States

Hazardous Waste Sites in the United States


Hazardous waste sites are numerous and common throughout the United States.  Use the links below and find a hazardous waste site near you to discuss.  If there are none within a reasonable distance, then report on one of your choice.  Go to the site to view it.  Do not go into the site unless it has been properly remediated and is no longer dangerous and you have permission to do so.  This is to familiarize yourself to the site and any apparent problems associated with it


  1. Introduction

Hazardous waste sites comprise a broad, complex, and interdisciplinary array of physical, chemical, biological, and socioeconomic characteristics. Notwithstanding the wide variety among these sites, they share a common feature in the fact that they have been in some fundamental way altered, degraded, or made different by the introduction of hazardous wastes. Typically, these are sites that have been abandoned, declared inactive or closed, or have undergone partial remedial action in an effort to mitigate the ecological and public health impacts of the hazardous waste. However, active sites where ongoing hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal activities are occurring similarly pose risks to the environment and human health and are included in the definition of hazardous waste sites. Although the category of Superfund sites is a regulatory term used in the United States, these sites are considered to represent a specific type of hazardous waste site and are operationally similar to other types of hazardous waste sites. Therefore, it is important to consider Superfund sites within the broader context of hazardous waste sites.

1.1 Definition of Hazardous Waste Sites

A hazardous waste site is any location in the United States where hazardous waste (as defined in RCRA section 1004) has been deposited, stored, disposed or placed, or otherwise come to be located. Such sites include, but are not limited to, landfills, surface impoundments, land treatment units, waste piles, injection wells, tanks, and drums, or any locations where the release of hazardous waste constituents into the environment has resulted in the need for remedial action or corrective action as those terms are defined in the Superfund and RCRA programs. This definition is based on the Congressional Research Service’s Hazardous Waste Remediation. Primarily, we are concerned with NPL sites, though it should be mentioned that the NPL is only a small subset of the total hazardous waste sites in the United States. The RCRA program is concerned with hazardous waste sites which are not included on the NPL. Other governmental and non-governmental groups have developed lists of hazardous waste sites based on their own criteria, often quite different from that used to determine NPL inclusion. These other lists may include sites not thought to be as serious as NPL sites, or they may include types of sites not considered at all in NPL site selection. The definition used here can encompass all hazardous waste sites, regardless of the method they were identified. This inclusiveness is especially important given the high number of unregulated or informally regulated waste disposal sites. Considering this definition, the number of sites that could be considered hazardous waste sites is quite large. It has been estimated that by the year 2000 there were over 200,000 known and hundreds of thousands of unknown abandoned hazardous waste sites in the U.S. Today, that number is likely much larger.

1.2 Importance of Studying Hazardous Waste Sites

At this juncture it is important to be mindful that despite the hazardous effects of waste site pollutants, many hazardous waste sites are in fact remediated and converted to land that is safe for human utilization. Despite this fact, there are still many hazardous waste sites throughout the United States and the world, and some of these sites still remain to be the source of toxicological harm.

Now the reason that hazardous waste sites are out of the ordinary is that they are different in comparison to an everyday polluted site in a neighborhood backyard. Hazardous waste sites contain pollutants that have a higher probability of causing toxicological harm to humans. These sites are often the byproducts of industrial activity, agricultural chemicals, military weapons manufacturing or testing, mining, and other heavy duty operations. Often wastes produced by these activities are simply abandoned because of inadequate environmental control or understanding of the time. As a result, hazardous waste site pollutants can persist for many years above safe levels because the hazardous organic and inorganic compounds are resistant to microbial breakdown in the environment.

Studying hazardous waste sites is important for several reasons. However, before delving into the complexities of hazardous waste site research, we must first ask what makes something important to study. In general, things (such as hazardous waste sites) are studied because they are out of the ordinary or because they present complex problems to solve. This may not be true for all scientific research, but it is an appropriate starting point for understanding the importance of researching hazardous waste sites.

  1. Finding a Hazardous Waste Site near You

2.1 Researching Hazardous Waste Sites

2.2 Locating Hazardous Waste Sites

2.3 Choosing a Site for Discussion

  1. Overview of the Chosen Hazardous Waste Site

3.1 Background Information

3.2 Site Location and Description

3.3 Historical Context

  1. Environmental Issues Associated with the Site

4.1 Contamination Sources

4.2 Impact on Soil and Water Quality

4.3 Potential Health Risks

4.4 Ecological Consequences

  1. Remediation Efforts at the Site

5.1 Cleanup Methods and Technologies Used

5.2 Successes and Challenges of Remediation

5.3 Monitoring and Long-Term Maintenance

  1. Local Community Involvement and Concerns

6.1 Community Awareness and Activism

6.2 Health and Safety Concerns

6.3 Advocacy for Environmental Justice

  1. Government Regulations and Policies

7.1 Federal Laws and Agencies

7.2 State and Local Regulations

7.3 Policy Implications and Reforms

  1. Lessons Learned and Best Practices

8.1 Case Studies of Successful Remediation

8.2 Community Engagement Strategies

8.3 Improving Waste Management Practices

Hazardous Waste Sites in the United States

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