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Warren County PCB Landfill

Warren County PCB Landfill was a PCB landfill located in Warren County , North Carolina , near the community of Afton south of Warrenton . The landfill Was created in 1982 by the State of North Carolina as a place to dump contaminated soil as result of an illegal PCB dumping incident. The site, which is about 150 acres (0.61 km 2 ), was extremely controversial and led to years of lawsuits . Warren County was one of the first cases of environmental justice in the United States and a legal precedentfor other environmental justice cases. The site was approximately three miles south of Warrenton . The State of North Carolina is about 19 acres (77,000 m 2 ) of the tract where the landfill was located, and Warren County owned the surrounding acreage around the borders. [1]


The purpose of the Warren County PCB landfill , as the public knew it, was to bury 60,000 tons of PCB-contaminated soil that had been contaminated with toxic PCBs between June and August, 1978, by Robert J. Burns, a business associate with Robert “Buck” Ward of the PCB PCB Transformer Company of Raleigh, North Carolina . Burns and his sounds deliberately dripped 31,000 gallons of PCB-contaminated oil along some 240 miles of highway shoulders in 14 counties. [2] [3] Burns of Jamestown, New York, was forced to take over the reins. Allegedly, the rationale for Burns’ crime was that he wanted to save money by circumventing new EPAthat would make waste disposal more transparent and costly. But he could easily, discreetly, and illegally disposed of the PCB-contaminated oil in a matter of hours. Burns and Ward were sentenced to jail time for their involvement in crime. The Ward Transformer site would be the EPA Superfund cleanup list and be the primary polluter of Lake Crabtree and the Neuse River Basin in the vicinity of Raleigh, North Carolina. Contaminants from the Ward have been detoxified, but the area around the site and surrounding creeks, lakes, and rivers have been permanently polluted.

Soon after the “midnight PCB dumpings,” the state erected wide warning signs along the roadsides, making the public feel as if the roadside PCBs posed an imminent public health threat. However, the Hunt Administration and the PCBs remain open to the environment, while Warren County citizens fiercely opposed the PCB landfill. The Governor, the North Carolina General Assembly, and the EPA found they would have made the political, legal, and regulatory preparations for the PCBs in Warren County.

The Warren County PCB has been licensed as a “dry-tomb” by the EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA approved the “dry-tomb” PCB landfill which failed to start with a million gallons of water in it. The site has not operated as a commercial facility because it has been forced to operate. The landfill was built with plastic liners, a clay cap, and PVC pipes which are allowed for methane and toxic gas to be released from the landfill. Although they are citizens of the United States, they have planned to build a pierced pipe leachatelandfill collection system under the landfill, no such leachate collection system was ever installed. The nearly 1 million gallons of water that was capped in the “dry-landfill” landfill landfill and exiting the landfill for years. Within a few months of burying the PCBs, the EPA found significant PCB air emissions at the landfill and 1/2 mile away, but citizens did not learn about this report for another 15 years. The 60,000 tons of PCB-contaminated soil were buried within 7 feet of groundwater. Warren County’s first independent scientist, Dr. Charles Mulchi, had predicted that the landfill would inevitably fail because of unsuitable soils and close proximity to groundwater. He had pointed out at a January 4, 1979, EPA public hearing that state scientists had misrepresented the depths of soil testing they had conducted at the site. At Dr. Mulchi’s insistence, the state added a plastic top liner to the landfill.

According to expert detoxification, Dr. Joel Hirshhorn, who represented Warren County citizens as they pressed Governor Hunt and the NC General Assembly for funding for a cleanup, said the Warren County PCB landfill was failing that should have been approved by the EPA .



Beginning with the Governor’s Hunt ‘s December 20, 1978, announcement that “public sentiment would not be the state of the PCBs in Warren County,” the PCB landfill was surrounded by controversy. The landfill was located in rural Warren County, which was primarily African American . Warren County has 18,000 people living in the county. Sixty-nine percent of the residents are non- white, and twenty percent of the residents live under the federal poverty level. The county has been determined by Tier I county for economic development. The state of the Warren County site is the best available site; However, the site selection process is not based on scientific criteria – soil permeability properties or the distance to groundwater – but on other, less tangible criteria, including the demographics of the county. EPA and state officials claimed that they could compensate for their “state-of-the-art”, “dry-tomb”, zero-percent discharge landfill.

After four years of arduous process in an effort to stop the PCB landfill, including litigation, Warren County has officially launched an environmental complaint. During the six-week trucking opposition, with collective nonviolent direct action, which included over 550 arrests, Warren County citizens raised what the Duke Chronicle described as “the largest civil disobedience in the South since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , marched through Alabama . ” It was the first time in American history that citizens were jailed for a landfillfrom attempting to prevent pollution. In an editorial titled “Dumping on the Poor,” the Washington Post describes Warren County’s PCB protest movement as “the marriage of environmentalism with civil rights,” and in its 1994 Environmental Equity Draft , the EPA describes the PCB protest movement as “the watershed event that led to the environmental equity movement of the 1980’s. ” With public pressure mounting, the Governor would then be made aware of the fact that the state of PCBs would become available. It was a pledge that would haunt him in his third and fourth terms in office.

[5] [6] The resulting controversy led to the coining of the phrase “environmental racism” and galvanized the environmental justice movement. [7]


In May, 1993, more than 10 years after the Governor promised the PCB landfill when it became possible, and soon after a huge landfill to landfill located at the PCB landfill, citizens learned that there was “an emergency” at the PCB landfill because of nearly a million gallons of water in that landfill that threatens to breach the liner. Speaking and negotiating for Warren County citizens as he had done a decade before, Ken Ferruccio laid a 5-Point Framework for resolving the landfill crisis and asked for the Hunt Administration (Governor Jim Hunt’s 3rd of 4 terms in office):

  • The state continues to monitor and maintain the PCB landfill
  • A joint citizen / state committee of PCB landfill
  • The solution to the failed PCB landfill remain on site
  • Citizens be given independent scientific representation
  • Permanent detoxification of the PCB landfill be the ultimate goal

Governor Hunt Agreed to the Framework and the Joint Warren County / State PCB Landfill Working Group Was FORMED.

For the next decade, a citizen of the United States of America and the United States of America on a permanent basis they continue to influence public policies and waste disposal decision-making. Ultimately, however, the state and the EPA protected their own interests and never reckoned that the landfill had been leaking or that they were cleaning it up because it failed. The rationale for the cleanup became Governor Huntwanted to live up to his detoxification promised. Therefore, the state and the EPA evaded long-term liability for the PCB landfill and the truth about EPA’s failed, “dry-tomb” landfills. Citizens got a cleanup, but it was a lack of control and oversight.

In 1999, the North Carolina General Assembly promised $ 8 million to go towards cleanup with another group. The EPA was deemed a “match” and the cleanup project was able to move forward. In November 2000 an environmental engineering firm, Earth Tech, was hired to serve the oversight contractor.

In December 2000, public bids were taken for the site-detoxifying contract. The IT group was awarded the contract , with their bid of 13.5 million dollars. Phase I of the cleanup process, and the contract was signed in March 2001. The IT group was bought by the Shaw Group , in May 2002, and changed their name to Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure. The equipment was sent to the landfill in May 2002, and was opened by the company before the start-up.

The follow-up tests on the site were performed in 2002. The EPA was tested on the PCB Landfill in January 2003. Based on the test results, an interim operations permit was granted in March. The soil treatment was then completed in October 2003, and in total 81,600 tons of soil was treated for the landfill site. The soil which has been treated in the past and has been cross-contaminated. The equipment at the site was decontaminated and removed from the site at the end of 2003. The final cost of the project was $ 17.1 million. (Much of this money has been paid for various costly studies and has been detoxified.) The Based Catalyzed Decomposition Detoxification was completed in 2004.[8]

See also

  • Landfill in the United States
  • Environmental justice


  1. Jump up^ Bullard, Robert. “Environmental Racism PCB Landfill Finally Remedied But No Reparations for Residents” . Environmental Justice Resource Center . Retrieved 2010-04-27 .
  2. Jump up^ http://www.leagle.com/decision/1982770676F2d94_1753/UNITED%20STATES%20v.%20WARD
  3. Jump up^ http://www.ncpcbarchives.com/?page_id=144
  4. Jump up^ Ferruccio, Deborah, ncpcbarchives.com
  5. Jump up^ Ferruccio, Deborah, ncpcbarchives.com (2011)
  6. Jump up^ Labalme, Jenny (1987). A road to walk: A struggle for environmental justice. Durham, NC: The Regulator Press.
  7. Jump up^ Pezzullo, Phaedra C. (2001, Winter). Performing Critical Interruptions: Rhetorical Invention and Narratives of the Environmental Justice Movement. Western Journal of Communication, 64: 1, pp. 1-25.
  8. Jump up^ Reference: Ferruccio, Deborah, ncpcbarchives.com “Warren County PCB Landfill” . Division of Waste Management . Retrieved 2010-04-27 .

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