Today, industry is being forced to meet qualify standards for all water effluents discharged or proposed to be discharged to public waters. This national policy demands the removal of substances from water or the management of processing so that restricted materials do not reach the water environment. Generally these restricted materials have no value in their present form or place and are, therefore, wastes.
The dilemma is this: having removed or isolated these materials at great cost, what do you do with them? Concentration of the materials may lessen cost of transportation and storage, but it does not solve the ultimate disposal problem.
Millions of tons of industrial residues are being stored in open pits above ground. Carbonates, hydrates, silicates, sulfates, oils, tars, acids, and brines can be found stored in diked areas near industrial centers. Some of these stored materials contain small quantities of toxic substances. All of these materials are subject to leaching and thus can reenter the environment. Maintenance of these open pits to avoid pollution is a never-ending concern.
The alternatives to pit storage have been ocean disposal, deep-well disposal, disposal by dilution during flood periods, and, in the case of organic materials, incineration. One by one these alternatives are being legislated or regulated out of existence. The Utopian philosophy of complete recycling is gaining popularity.
The atomic-energy industry has for years isolated dangerous materials, immobilized them, and buried them on reservations far removed from processing sites. Treatment of the wafer may cost as much as $1/gal. Transportation and burial of residues are a large added cost.
Processing industries generate some very complicated waste waters. The most difficult to dispose of are those which contain both organic and inorganic substances in true solution.
The dilemma is cause for national concern, requiring study and resolution. The road to complete recycling—if there is such a thing—is long and costly. Politicians must be forced to look at both sides of the environmental-protection coin.