Illegal dumping poses environmental, safety hazards
Illegal dumping of waste may seem like an easy way out but it causes a number of environmental and safety hazards for both individuals and communities.
Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas Integrated Solid Waste Program Manager Troy Imamura said illegal dumping is an especially important issue on Guam.
“The human-health risks associated with illegal dumps are significant,” he said. “Illegal dumps can contaminate surface and ground water. Depending on location, dumps can keep water from draining which may lead to flooding.
Illegal dumps also pose a fire risk, disrupt wildlife habitats and present physical hazards to human health.”
Imamura said illegally dumped waste poses significant potential physical hazards not only for adults, but especially for children who find themselves in undeveloped land areas.
“Illegal dumps may be easily accessible to people, particularly children, who can be at risk to chemicals–fluids or dust –or get hurt from nails and sharp edges of materials,” he said. “Abandoned refrigerators or freezers may appear attractive play spaces to children, who like to play inside of them. Children have become trapped and suffocated in improperly disposed-of appliances.”
Chemical hazards are also prevalent in illegal dump sites. From asbestos to gypsum and lead, an illegal dump site can cause poisoning.
“Some common sources are batteries, epoxies, waterproofing agents, asbestos and commercial cleaning compounds,” Imamura said. “Asbestos, for example, was used in more than 4,000 building products. Singles, ceiling tile, insulation and vinyl floor covering are just a few (examples). Unless asbestos is handled carefully, its fibers can float free and be inhaled. Lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis can result from prolonged exposure to these fibers.”
Other hazardous materials include drywall, which is made of gypsum and lead-based paint.
“Under certain conditions, improperly disposed gypsum drywall can produce hydrogen sulfide gas that can explode in high concentrations,” Imamura said. “Decomposing wastes also generate methane and other gases. Methane is explosive at certain levels.”
Imamura said that an estimate shows that half of the housing in the United States contains some lead-based paint. Demolition or reconstruction waste from homes with lead-based paint should be carefully disposed of to avoid risk of lead contamination.
“Exposure to lead or lead poisoning is a risk for children and adults,” he said. “Lead poisoning is most commonly found in children due to their smaller size. High levels of lead in children have been shown to result in learning disabilities, behavioral problems and mental retardation.”
At NAVFAC Marianas, refuse collection and recycling services are offered to U.S. Naval Base Guam and its tenants, while industrial and commercial waste is contracted to DZSP 21. Commands who wish to turn in large appliances can do so through the Defense Logistics Agency’s disposition service.
Household residents are encouraged to recycle materials such as aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles, cardboard and mixed paper in their recycling bins. Imamura said bulk items can also be picked up along the curbside on Fridays.
Imamura said if residents use the information provided and curb illegal dumping, a number of positive environmental impacts can be realized to improve the quality of life for all.