MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) – State and federal leaders will put their heads together Monday night to discuss how to deal with suspected toxic chemicals in “garbage juice.”
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances– the same ones that were found in drinking wells in Bennington in 2016– are chemicals linked to cancer and low birth weight.
They’re in many products we use every day like clothing, food packaging, furniture ski wax and more.
They are products that are disposed of at the Coventry landfill, where rain and snow seep through the solid waste and drains through the landfill liner as leachate.
Leachate contains a constellation of chemicals. Many are removed through the wastewater treatment. But some were still making it into Lake Memphremagog until the state placed a moratorium on the discharge of leachate a over year ago.
“This particular issue has risen so far to the top of the vocabulary, at least in the NEK, that we felt that there had to be some discussion,” said Mary Pat Goulding of the Memphremagog Watershed Association.
Communities across Vermont are grappling with how to process the leachate and where it should go. Leachate is collected at the landfill and is shipped to municipal wastewater plants. Under state wastewater regulations, the leachate is monitored for heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs, and other pollutants. The state is also proposing to begin monitoring wastewater treatment plants, surface water, and fish tissue for PFAS.
State officials say leachate is a reflection of our lifestyle, what we consume and how we dispose of it.
Vermont is moving along with reusing and recycling products but that’s only half of the battle. There’s still the problem of treating leachate and removing PFAS.
“They’ll be scaling up here as we see more promise from these technologies,” said Amy Dindal with the Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute.
Dindal and others have been working on emerging leachate treatment technologies. She says treating the trash juice is challenging because there are countless other co-contaminants.
“Then you have the additional complex chemistry when it comes to PFAS, whether they’re going to chemically, thermally or biologically going to degrade on their own,” Dindal said.
The nation is learning more and more about PFAS every day: how they’re created, how to manage them and how to dispose of them.
Monday night, a panel of nonpartisan experts will host a virtual meeting to explain the issue and what kinds of solutions exist.
The Leachate Symposium is on Jan. 31, from 7-9 pm. The interactive, virtual event will feature a panel of speakers with expertise in leachate and leachate-management technologies and will focus on educating the community. The evening will include presentations and ample time for questions.
The event is free and open to the public, and it will be broadcast via Zoom. Pre-registration is required to access the Zoom link. Click here for the registration link.
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