The state of Vermont changed its mind about sending about 2,500 gallons of the hazardous fire depressant known as PFOA and PFOS to a hazardous waste incinerator, when it discovered that the operator of the plant had been cited for numerous clean air violations. The Heritage Thermal Services incinerator in East Liverpool, OH has consistently and repeatedly been in violation of federal and state environmental laws and has been a Significant and Habitual Non-Complier of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and High Priority Violator of the Clean Air Act continuously for years. For the past three years running, for the 12 consecutive quarters from October 2014 to today, Heritage Thermal Services has been and continues to be a High Priority Violator of the Clean Air Act due to the release of excessive amounts of hazardous air pollutants and hydrocarbons. That’s 100% of the time. This is an increase over the three (3) year period from 2010 to 2012 when Heritage Thermal Services was a High Priority Violator 67% of the time.

What’s odd about the decision to burn this waste is that the very reason this family of chemicals are used by fire fighters is that it suppresses flames and is difficult to burn. It’s very likely that the much of the PFAS waste that would be burned in an incinerator would end up going out the smokestack creating air pollution problems.

The state changed its mind once it learned about Heritage’s track record. There was also public pressure from local citizens groups in Vermont who raised significant concerns about burning foam at a hazardous waste incinerator.  Alonzo Spencer of the local groups Save Our County in East Liverpool credited the Conservation Law Foundation which has an office in Vermont with stopping the delivery of the waste. “I would like to personally thank Jen Duggen [Vermont director of CLF]. Heritage was on the verge of accepting waste from Vermont that Heritage couldn’t handle correctly. It was Duggan’s Foundation that opposed that. That waste would have been on its way now if she hadn’t intervened,” Spencer told a local paper.

The ingredients of these fire-fighting foams have been found to be toxic. PFOS and PFOA belong to a class of compounds called PFAS chemicals that have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, developmental problems in children and immune system problems. They were banned for use by fire departments in the early 2000s and have become an emerging drinking water contaminant across the country. An estimated 110 million Americans have PFAS in their water according to a report by the Environmental Working Group. There are 32 military sites and 17 private sites contaminated with PFAS that are on the federal Superfund list. For more, <read here>.

Alonzo Spencer told his local paper, “The city has been spared a ‘disaster.’”