Converting the dreaded PCBs into useful commodities


Courtesy of Minergy Corporation Limited

For decades polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been high on the list of toxins the public fears. A new vitrification technology is claimed to be able to completely destroy PCBs and other toxins in contaminated sediment by melting
it into a glass aggregate product that can be used in the construction industry. This process, developed by Minergy Corp., costs about as much as landfilling, without the long-term environmental liabilities, and costs considerably less than other thermal treatment technologies. The Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States was unfortunately the recipient of two decades’ worth of PCB discharges. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement expressed the commitment of Canada and the United States to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem. The U.S. and Canadian governments have identified 43 official “Areas of Concern”: 26 in U.S. waters, 17 in Canadian waters (five are shared between United States and Canada on connecting river systems). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), contaminated sediment is a common problem throughout Areas of Concern within the Great Lakes Basin. Contaminated sediments significantly contribute to the impairment of nearly all identified beneficial land uses. Dredging of sediments is frequently done to improve environmental conditions where contaminated sediments pose unacceptable risk to human and ecological health.

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