Raleigh, N.C. — Monday was deja vu all over again for the House Environment Committee, which for the second time in five days approved legislation that would require state environmental regulators to allow the disposal of landfill wastewater and any leaking fluids by spraying it into the air over the dump without a permit.
Department of Environmental Quality officials expressed opposition to House Bill 576 when it first passed the committee last Thursday, so they worked with sponsor Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, in the following days to come up with an acceptable substitute, which was presented to the committee again.
The revised proposal would require DEQ to allow the so-called "aerosolization" process only at lined landfills, which Michael Scott, director of DEQ's Division of Waste Management said are large enough and have have enough buffers that the spray wouldn't carry onto neighboring properties.
DEQ could permit the process at unlined landfills if it's not deemed a "significant air contamination source," a phrase that isn't defined in the bill. Landfills that accept coal ash or swine waste wouldn't be allowed to use the process.
"It's a safe process and is so much better than the old-timey answer of the solution to pollution is dilution," Dixon said. "We're not diluting anything. We're taking the bad stuff out."
Contaminants are too heavy to go through the aerosolization process and simply fall back into the landfill, he said.
But Brooks Rainey Pearson, a staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, noted viruses, mold and asbestos are small enough and light enough to be sprayed by the system into the air over landfills and possibly spread by local atmospheric conditions.
"This is a witch's brew of toxic chemicals," Pearson said of landfill fluids, adding that some chemicals likely aren't listed in federal or state air quality regulations.
Also, she noted, the legislation allows unlined landfill operators seeking a DEQ permit for the aerosolization process to determine what chemicals are in their wastewater.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, had more practical concerns about the bill.
"I don't think, legislatively, we ought to tell the department what the right technology is," McGrady said. "This may not be the right technology in the future, but we've written it into state law."
The voice vote on the revised bill sounded close, but was deemed to have passed.