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There is a place that today's industrial society desperately wishes to find. In prior eras, people sought Nirvana or the Fountain of Youth or Shangri-La – states of mind (or nothingness) as much as places, really. The object of today's quest has no neighbors, no endangered or threatened species, no hydraulic link to precious groundwater; ideally, it has no connection to the biosphere at all.

That place is called "away," as in, "Let's dig up this contamination and haul it away," or, "We need to take this waste away." The public and private sectors in the United States have spent billions of dollars looking for "away," but when they have found it – usually in some western desert – a pesky geologist or biologist spots a seismic fault or a rare moss that shatters the illusion of ecological nothingness.

The exploration for "away" continues, but until the expedition returns, imperfect sites will have to be picked for the disposal of hazardous waste. The necessary compromise that characterizes this unenviable task has proven maddeningly difficult. Since the enactment of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in 1976, only one new hazardous waste landfill has opened (and stayed open) in the United States on a site not previously used for waste management. It is in Last Chance, Colorado.


Environmental Law | Law


Siting Hazardous Waste Treatment Facilities: The NIMBY Syndrome by Kent E. Portney, Westport, Connecticut: Auburn House, 1991, pp. xiv, 181, $39.95.