Photo obtained from Cleveland.com, courtesy of the EPA.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, has began cleanup of a recycling facility that house potentially toxic light bulbs and other hazardous waste. Two to 3 million spent fluorescent bulbs, 250 drums of polychlorinated biphenyl- (PCB-) containing lighting ballasts and other electronic equipment were stored at the former Fluorescent Recycling Inc. warehouse in Cleveland.
Though called a recycling facility, the plant seems to have operated mainly as a storage facility until a fire in mid-February 2018. The Cleveland fire department notified the Ohio EPA about the stored items at that time. The Ohio agency contacted the U.S. EPA to warn about the potential threat of the facility to the public. The EPA determined the facility was contaminated with mercury vapors and PCBs.
According to a U.S. EPA news release, the agency will address the hazardous contamination accumulated throughout the entire warehouse. and will provide technical assistance to the Cleveland Fire Department.
The owner has now provided U.S. EPA with access to the warehouse for what the agency calls "a Superfund time-critical removal action to remove contaminants." Fluorescent Recycling Inc. historically operated as a spent fluorescent lighting waste transporter, according to the agency.
Eric Pohl, an EPA on-scene coordinator, says in an online report on Cleveland.com that the air quality is not a threat to the area surrounding the warehouse and the EPA is monitoring and testing the air quality daily. Officials are removing the lamps and PCBs because they contain mercury, which can be harmful when inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Pohl says in the report there is no timeline on the cleanup’s completion.