9. PCBs AND TOXIC WASTE IN YOUR GASOLINE
Next time you pull into a gas station, you could be filling your tank
with a deadly mixture of PCBs, toxic waste, solvents, and gasoline.
The General Accounting Office (GAO), Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA), and the FBI are investigating sophisticated "waste laundering"
schemes in which toxic wastes and solvents are mixed with gasoline and
diesel and industrial fuel. At least one of the schemes revealed connections
to organized crime including personal and business associations with
members of La Cosa Nostra families. The practice of mixing waste and
fuel apparently started in the 1970s when oil costs began rising. It
accelerated when toxic waste disposal costs increased and the number
of legal disposal sites decreased.
Since proper disposal of PCBs can cost as much as $1,000 a drum in
the U.S., mixing the wastes and fuel can produce enormous profits. The
practice also can produce potential health hazards. When the tainted
fuels are burned, toxic emissions such as dioxins are produced. Millions
of dollars also are lost because of engine failure and heating furnace
Cases investigators have uncovered include:
* Several oil transport companies in Buffalo, NY, mixed polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs) and solvents with oil and gasoline and sold them
to Canadian and U.S. customers.
* At least five million gallons of hazardous waste solvents, including
benzene, chloroform, and methylene, were sent by rail from Ontario
to Texas and mixed into gasoline.
* In Oklahoma, the FBI investigated toxic wastes that were mixed
with crude oil and sold to refineries. One refinery was Sinclair Oil
whose senior vice president, C.W. Fink, warned that the problem could
be more widespread.
* A Canadian oil firm and its president were charged with 13 criminal
counts in Michigan in 1985 for selling fuel mixed with waste solvents;
the case has yet to come to court (in early 1990).
Law enforcement efforts have been hampered by the lack of cooperation
among agencies to share information. The GAO told Congress that although
EPA had received information on a waste firm's suspected organized crime
connections, it would not share the information with GAO officials.
While four congressmen introduced a bill in May, 1989, to stiffen enforcement
efforts, the mass media have yet to discover this story. Rep. Howard
Wolpe (D-Mich.), one of the bill's sponsors warned "Our own direct
safety and public health may be jeopardized by this practice."
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: TIM HILTON
SOURCE: COMMON CAUSE MAGAZINE 2030 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
DATE: July/August 1989
TITLE: "TOXIC FUEL"
AUTHOR: ANDREW PORTERFIELD
COMMENTS: This is a story about a number of "waste laundering"
schemes, involving PCBs, toxic waste, and solvents, which happened in
Canada as well in the United States. And while the scam apparently crossed
the border with ease, the press coverage of it did not. Andrew Porterfield,
the investigative journalist who wrote the article for Common Cause,
reports that the story appeared in Canadian newspapers from every province
and was the lead story in Canadian national news broadcasts on television.
However, the press coverage in the United States was significantly different.
According to Porterfield, it received only very brief mention deep inside
one Saturday issue of The New York Times. "Considering how toxic
wastes in fuel oil and gasoline affects every U.S. citizen (as well
as Canadians), is, this story deserved far more exposure," Porterfield