Industrial And Hazardous Wastes

A most challenging field in environmental engineering practice is'the treatment and disposal of industrial and hazardous wastes. Because of the great variety of wastes produced from established industries and the introduction of wastes from new processes, a knowledge of chemistry is essential to a solution of most of the problems. Some may be solved with a knowledge of inorganic chemistry; others may require a knowledge of organic, physical, or colloidal chemistry, biochemistry, or even radiochemistry. It is to be expected that, as further technological advances are made and industrial wastes of even greater variety appear, chemistry will serve as the basis for the development and selection of treatment methods.

The problems associated with managing hazardous wastes are particularly complex. Over 100 million tons of hazardous wastes are generated each year in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed well over 1200 sites that are contaminated with hazardous chemicals on the National Priority or Superfund list because of their potential threat to human health and the environment, and most likely will add many more in the near future. There is other widespread contamination of soils and groundwater requiring cleanup that has resulted from industrial operations, leaking underground storage tanks, and federal activities, especially those within the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. The management of the newly generated hazardous wastes and the cleanup of past contamination requires the combined efforts of many scientists and engineers. Another significant aspect of this problem is analytical chemistry: sampling, separation, and quantification of the myriad of chemicals present in industrial wastes, leachates, and contaminated surface waters and aquifers is most challenging.

It should be emphasized that many of the industrial and hazardous wastes problems of the future will be solved by minimizing the quantities of these materials produced and used through product substitution, waste recovery and recycling, and waste minimization. It is a generally accepted axiom that it is much more cost effective to prevent pollution rather than clean it up.

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