SINKEX vessels. Meanwhile, the Navy was required to conduct the Sunken Vessel Study to substantiate the findings of the 1994 Modeling study, again paid for by the agency seeking exemption, and in the Spring of 1999 presented the study to the EPA suggesting there was a “ lack of evidence of unreasonable risk to human health or the environment” from SINKEX.
In September 1999, under pressure from the Navy, the EPA Administrator reinstated the SINKEX program under the general permit authorized under MPRSA and determined that PCBs on SINKEX vessels should be regulated solely under the MPRSA, rather than both TSCA and MPRSA. This determination was made under the authority of section 9(b) of TSCA, which provides that if the Administrator determines that a risk to health or the environment associated with a chemical substance or mixture could be eliminated or reduced to a sufficient extent by actions taken under the authorities contained in other Federal laws, the Administrator shall use those authorities to protect against such risk unless he determines it is in the public interest to take action under TSCA. Under this authority, the actions taken by the Administrator included the
The Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter, producing 750,000 tons of hazardous waste annually, more than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined (source: Projectcensored.org). On top of generating more waste than any other entity across the globe, the DOD also continues to operate with exemptions to environmental laws to avoid costs associated with pollution prevention and clean up. SINKEX operates under such exemptions. Image Source: U.S. Navy News Stand photo ID 021009-N-8590B- 005
full exemption of SINKEX from TSCA, under the assumption that SINKEX could adequately be regulated solely under MPRSA.
The EPA affirmed: “We believe there is no public interest in regulating the transportation and disposal of PCBs associated with SINKEX under TSCA…”25 SINKEX activities resumed in 1999 with full exemption from TSCA, and continues to operate with full exemption to this day.
However, the EPA made this determination under what has proven to be a false assumption, stating at the time “Solid PCBs are not believed
to be readily environment.”26
leachable to the marine The EPA’s decision was
further rationalized as follows: “Considering the type of PCB material involved and the lack of evidence of unreasonable risk to human health or the environment, the Office of Water has determined that the general MPRSA permit for SINKEX is protective of risks associated with PCBs on SINKEX vessels.”27
New findings by the EPA and others in the scientific community now fully acknowledge that solid PCBs leach into the marine environment and are taken up by fish. PCBs can then be transferred to humans as humans digest these contaminated fish. Under these new findings there exists a clear public health interest in regulating transportation and disposal of PCBs associated with SINKEX under TSCA.
SINKEX now operates under a special permit
contaminated vessels be sunk a minimum of 50 nautical miles from land. The act of transporting PCB contaminated vessels beyond U.S. territorial waters to SINKEX locations is considered export of PCB material for disposal purposes, and is therefore under normal
Official letter from Carol Browner, EPA Administrator, to Richard Danzig, Secretary of the Navy, September 13, 1999 IBID. IBID. 25 26 27
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