After seven months of trying to get rid of toxic PCBs dumped along 211 miles of North Carolina roads, Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. now wants to leave the chemcial where it is.
In a prepared statement, Hunt said he favors plowing the polychlorinated biphenyls into the ground, spraying them with activated charcoal as a bonding agent, and reseeding the affected roadsides with grass.
"I am satified that in-place treatment is safee," Hunt said. "It does result in PCBs being bound to the carbon so it will not move into the food chain and be dangerous."
Hunt asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency Feb. 6 to amend rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act requiring that PCBs be disposed of in an incinerator or chemical waste landfill. The decision from EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle is due by May 7.
The proposal toleave the PCB-contaminated soil in place is likely to attract opposition from environmental and residents groups in some of the 14 affected countries. Several countries have already voiced opposition to the plan.
Hunt Shelved a plan to scrape up the approximately 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and haul it to a landfill in rural Warren County after more than 600 local Residents showed up at a January public meeting to attack the plan.
Pcbs, which are used primarily in electrical insulation, cause skin and internal disorders in humans and have been linked to birth defects and cancer in laboratory animals. The chemical does not easily break down in the environment and can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed by humans.
Herbert Hyde, PCB coordinator and state secretary of crime control and public safety, said he recommended the in-place treatment after tests showed the PCBs were diluted to within EPA guidelines. But he said scientists don't know if the charcoal will bond, and thus neutralize, all the PCBs.
"I believe on what I've been told by the scientists, that it's safe," he said. "There's always the possibility they could be wrong."
Hyde estimated the in-place treatment would cost $600,000. Scraping up the contaminated soil and hauling it to a federally approved dump site in Alabama would cost $8 million to $10 million, he said.
Truckers illegally dumped oil containing PCBs along roads in eastern and central North Carolina last summer. Three New York men and two Raleigh men face charges in the case.