EPA researchers develop methods for managing solid waste and contaminated water resulting from natural and human-made disasters, including waste minimization, treatment, storage and disposal. Researchers also develop tools and information to support waste management decisions.
Natural disasters are occurring with increasing frequency, generating volumes of waste and debris that are difficult for states, local governments, tribes and territories to manage. Incidents involving extremely dangerous chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) contaminants would create significant additional challenges in waste management.
Waste management challenges include:
- minimizing the amount of waste generated during cleanup
- segregating waste types
- waste treatment options
- temporary waste storage & staging
- packaging and transporting waste
- disposing of waste and debris
Throughout the incident response and clean up, waste must be characterized determine how and where to ship, treat and/or dispose of contaminated materials.
Response to a large-scale incident is complex because activities are interrelated. For example, decontamination approach decisions have an impact on the timeline of cleanup as well as on the cost and overall amount of waste generated. Decision-makers must be aware of the trade-offs involved in their decisions to optimize the response.
For CBRN incidents these complexities are compounded by:
- Lack of a federal regulations for managing biologically-contaminated waste
- Limited disposal capacity for radiologically-contaminated waste
- Lack of experience of decision-makers and waste management facilities in handling these wastes
- Hesitancy from some disposal facilities to accept these wastes
- Waste Estimation Support Tool (WEST)
- Incident Waste Assessment & Tonnage Estimator (I-WASTE)
- Municipal Solid Waste Decision Support Tool (MSW DST)
- Decision Support Tools for Waste Management
- Video: Incident Waste Assessment & Tonnage Estimator (I-WASTE)
- Managing Materials and Wastes for Homeland Security Incidents
- Sustainable Materials Management Tools