Under the Dome

Environmentalists criticize proposed disposal method as ‘garbage juice in a snowblower’

A bill that allows what the Southern Environmental Law Center calls “garbage juice in a snowblower” is moving through the legislature.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved House Bill 576 on Wednesday. The bill allows for the Department of Environmental Quality to approve the use of aerosolization – essentially the spraying of liquid – for the disposal of leachate wastewater from certain landfills. Leachate is the liquid that is drained from landfills.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County Republican, said the bill was the work of five different divisions of DEQ coming together to help write the bill.

Dixon didn't go into details about the bill on Wednesday, but in a previous committee hearing, he said it would save money by reducing the amount of wastewater that must be transported and treated, WRAL News reported at the time.

“You’ve got nasty water. You stick a hose in it, you pump it out. It goes through a system that aerosolizes the water. The bad stuff will not aerosolize. It falls back into the holding pond,” Dixon said, according to WRAL, adding that 80 percent of the leachate is vaporized “in a very clean state with no contaminants whatsoever.”

Brooks Rainey Pearson, staff attorney with the environmental law center, told the committee that the group cannot find any data to back up claims about the safety of the technology.

“You have heard that it is safe, and maybe it is, but we don’t know (that),” she said. “They claim that the toxic particles (in the spray) will not stay airborne, but will fall back into the landfill. But we cannot find any data to confirm this.”

Pearson said materials given to lawmakers in the House – where the bill passed 75-45 – didn’t address the “environmental and public health concerns of snow blowing garbage juice.”

She suggested allowing DEQ – which has already permitted the use of aerosolization at some landfills – to gather data from those permits and then decide.

Dixon, responding to Pearson, said her claims were “the personification of” false information, but did not point out any specific falsehoods. The bill cleared the committee on a voice vote – with some audible “no” votes from Democrats.

Lauren Horsch: 919-836-2801, @LaurenHorsch