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Graduate student exposes government agency for promoting illegal waste dumping: 'Pollutants lingering in the soil above health and safety levels'

The dumping site has toxic waste containers scattered throughout the forest that were never cleaned up.

The dumping site has toxic waste containers scattered throughout the forest that were never cleaned up.

Photo Credit: Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet

Inside Climate News reported on the research of graduate Sam Satterly, who uncovered an illegal hazardous waste dumping ground in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. 

The lack of land remediation on behalf of the EPA, as well as the environmental impacts of the waste, is raising some eyebrows.

What's happening?

The article from Inside Climate News highlighted the findings and context of an ignored toxic dumping site in Kentucky.

Satterly, a Louisville resident and Metro Parks supervisor, discovered a toxic dumping site in Jefferson Memorial Park while conducting research for her master's degree. The dumping site is part of The Valley of Drums, which was a notable area of illegal toxic waste dumping in 1979. The drums were full of hazardous waste and were eventually removed by the EPA in a publicized successful remediation effort.

Yet what the EPA failed to clean up was another toxic dumping site a mere 700 feet away from the Valley of Drums, named the Gully of Drums. This dumping site also has toxic waste containers scattered throughout the forest, yet they were never cleaned up. Satterly's findings were published at the end of 2023.

Why is this concerning?

The impacts from the Gully of Drums have resulted in "pollutants lingering in the soil above health and safety levels," reported Inside Climate News. Some of the hazardous toxins and materials found from the Valley of Drums included heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like methylene chloride and vinyl chloride, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as per the EPA. Since the Gully of Drums is likely from the same source of dumping, the contaminants are likely the same.

These contaminants are harmful to human and animal health. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, both PCBs and VOCs have conclusive evidence that they can cause health problems ranging from breathing problems to skin rashes to cancer. 

As far as the environment, dumping hazardous waste into a forest like Jefferson Memorial Park in Louisville can have catastrophic effects on ecosystems. 

What's being done about the Gully of Drums?

University of Louisville's Center for Environmental Policy and Management, where Satterly received her graduate degree, has ties to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, which can support actions to clean up the Gully of Drums.

Additionally, with federal interest in cleaning up "legacy pollution," grant money for remediation may be awarded through Biden's Justice40 program. 

"I can honestly say for the first time in two years, I believe that the Gully will finally be cleaned up," Satterly stated to Inside Climate News. 

One thing for certain is that Satterly's research played a huge role in seeing the hazardous waste finally dealt with.

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