The Public Interest

The elusive pursuit of toxics management

Daniel Mazmanian & David Morell

Winter 1988

THROUGHOUT THE 1980s, America has struggled to manage its hazardous wastes safely in a growing climate of public fear verging on chemophobia. Each new discovery of an abandoned hazardous waste dump—ranging from the larger ones at Love Canal (in Niagara Falls, New York), the Valley of the Drums (in Kentucky), Price’s Pit (in New Jersey), and the Stringfellow Acid Pits (in California), to the thousands of smaller old dumps and leaky surface impoundments across the nation—has riveted public attention and intensified pressures for rapid cleanup. Each new discovery of contaminated groundwater has fanned fears about the safety of our drinking water supplies. Each new leaking underground storage tank, highway spill, or industrial release of toxic air contaminants has produced newspaper headlines and television news broadcasts. From Bhopal, India to our own backyards, the threat is seemingly real and ever present, and the prospects appear more frightening still.

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