Perhaps no other endeavor undertaken by geologists presents the challenge that accompanies analyses of the fate and effects of wastes discharged into the terrestrial and marine environments. Not only are geological disciplines called into play, but social, political, international, and emotional factors impinge upon the assessment of disposal options and the decisions leading to site selection and disposal operations. There is justifiable concern surrounding the assessment of waste disposal practices. As a recent report by the National Research Council (1986, p. 40) states:
Anthropogenic changes in the planetary environment are a unique feature in that they may well exceed the limits of natural regulation. There are many indications that human-induced changes are substantive enough to affect the survival of other organisms, both directly and indirectly, and to pose a threat to mankind itself.
Within the Atlantic continental margin, a wide variety of waste-disposal methods are practiced by the industrial, municipal, state, and federal communities. The complexity in dealing with waste-management practices is not confined to scientific uncertainty regarding the behavior of wastes in alluvium (soil), rock, the atmosphere, or nearshore to abyssal sea-floor substrates and water masses, but to a large degree it may be attributed to conflicting regulations, policies, permit requirements, and licenses— all controlled by authorities whose jurisdictions may overlap.
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The Atlantic Continental Margin
This synthesis covers stratigraphy, depositional processes, and geophysical interpretation of the major onshore and offshore marginal basins from Maine to the Bahamas, and includes an up-to-date review of thinking on regional tectonic history. Additional chapters discuss the theoretical aspects of thermal evolution, subsidence, and seismic stratigraphy as applied to this region. Geological resources including petroleum, water, sand and gravel, hard minerals, and heat flow are reviewed, and environmental hazards such as seismicity, coastal erosion, waste disposal and submarine instability as it relates to site of drilling platforms and mining are evaluated. A summary chapter reviews areas of controversy and suggests key topics for research.