'Garbage juice' spray bill heads to Cooper

Posted June 15

— A measure on its way to the governor's desk would allow landfills to collect the contaminated liquid that leaks from the trash and shoot it up into the air over the dump, using giant blowers called aerosolizers.

Backers of the measure say the water will form smaller droplets and evaporate, while the contaminants in it will form larger droplets and fall back down. But critics say there's not enough evidence that the process is safe, especially for neighborhoods surrounding landfills, where they worry the spray could drift.

The process would save waste companies money by reducing the amount of contaminated wastewater they have to pay to treat.

House Bill 576 would require the state Department of Environmental Quality to approve permits for the process, which Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, insisted Thursday is safe, though Democrats said they never received studies or data they had requested as evidence of that.

"Aerosolization has been tested in North Carolina and Virginia over the last year and a half," Wade said. "This process has been permitted by two administrations in DEQ, and they have approved the language."

The inventor of the aerosolizer technology, patent holder Kelly Houston of Cornelius, contributed $5,000 to Wade's campaign in June 2016, according to state campaign finance records.

Critics of the measure noted that it does not give DEQ the option of saying no.

"If DEQ fully supports this, why are we dictating to them to allow it?" asked Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, calling the liquid, known as leachate, a "witches' brew" that would drift over neighborhoods around landfills if it is sprayed as a mist into the air.

Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, noted that such neighborhoods are usually "black and brown communities."

"When you talk about spraying garbage juice into the air, I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the path, and I don’t know anyone in this room who would," Lowe said. "There’s something about that that just seems wrong."

Wade took exception to the term "garbage juice."

"The only thing that’s sprayed in the air is an aerosol of water. All the components fall back down into a lined landfill, where they can be disposed of," she said.

The measure passed 29-14, with Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, joining the Democrats in opposition.

Gov. Roy Cooper will have 10 days to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. Spokesman Ford Porter said the governor "is reviewing this legislation but has concerns."


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  • Tom Harris Jun 18, 11:38 p.m.
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    Trudy Wade is clearly an existential threat to the state of North Carolina. What's up with Guilford County?

  • Stacie Hagwood Jun 17, 12:39 p.m.
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    Common sense will tell you this is a very dangerous idea. But then common sense isn't as common as it used it be, is it? But we all know this isn't a lack of common sense but a complete disregard for the health of people and the environment in which they live.

  • Norman Lewis Jun 17, 12:25 p.m.
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    I'm trying to imagine the smell downwind on a breezy day. Any smell would mean the "contaminants" are not all separated out of the spray. How naive do the landfill operators think we are? That process will stink terribly and be potentially poisonous to the public nearby, and they know it.

  • Betsey Duggins Jun 16, 12:48 p.m.
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    No, no, NO! Not safe and absolutely hazardous! Please Cooper, stop their insanity. Research the landfill leachate with DWR and you will understand. Much hidden in data and VERY CONCENTRATED WASTE! STOP the hidden agendas of people destroying our great state.

  • Ron Myers Jun 16, 12:42 a.m.
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    Untreated leachate from non hazardous landfills contain many organic and inorganic chemicals, metals. There are restrictions for discharging this liquid into streams because of the contaminants in MSW leachate. The aerosolizing this untreated leachate will result in releasing these contaminants into the atmosphere where it would be available for inhalation by nearby residents and visitors. It is unclear what basis the DEQ concluded that there would not be a significant air contaminants generated. The statement that the components of the water will fall back to the ground is incorrect. The components of the leachate will be carried with the small water droplets where the water will evaporate leaving a particulate which will be carried for many miles downwind to be inhaled by nearby residents. As a minimum, the leachate should be treated to remove these contaminants to the same level as required for discharge into streams prior to being aerosolized.

  • Jim Frei Jun 15, 7:28 p.m.
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    Let's spray garbage juice upwind of Trudy's house and see how she likes it.