Environmental Science Essay Example


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Hazardous Waste Management: Mercury Case

Environmental Science Essay Introduction

In today's world, environmental and health trends have gained increasing importance compared with previous ages, mostly due to global propaganda on living healthily. In other words, people and institutions have and must become more responsive to critical topics such as infectious diseases, food consumption, and water and site clean-up quality. Companies should also keep up with the latest legislature and ethics when managing hazardous waste sites in this direction. That is, they should consider investing in cutting-edge clean-up technologies that promote health and well-being for individuals, and most importantly, for nature. In this assignment, as a case study, "Mercury Recovery Facility Creates Federal Clean-Up Site" from Hazardous Waste Management: An Introduction (2012) and Minamata Incident have been analyzed and examined. The paper presents a general and personal evaluation of the case, insights, and data from the Internet, and a similar incident has been given as an example.

Body Paragraphs

Mercury Recovery Cases: MERECO and Minimata Bay

In the early 1950s, Mercury Refining Company (MERECO) started getting wastes that included mercury-containing components from dental amalgam, thermometers, batteries, and so on (VanGuilder, 2012). The company, which was based in upstate New York, targeted to refine the hazardous chemicals and resale the products. Using the condensation [retort] method, the company used to reclaim the mercury in their facilities. They specialized in receiving hazardous chemicals from off-site to their on-site storage, and their facilities were considered commercially hazardous waste fields. "Before 1980, waste contaminated with mercury was dumped over an embankment of an unnamed tributary to a creek. Contaminated groundwater ran off the site" (VanGuilder, 2012, Chapter 5, p. 9). The following year, unfortunately, a fire happened in the site. Firefighters had to use an extreme amount of water to extinguish the area.

Upon the incident, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [NYSDEC] has investigated the site. They have found out that "polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury contamination on the southern edge of the property and the embankment of the tributary" were determined (VanGuilder, 2012, p. 9). In the following years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency [USEPA] defined the MERECO site as one of the most contaminated sites in the country, and MERECO was placed on National Priorities List by the institution. In the late 1990s, the company stopped reclaiming mercury in its facilities; however, they have continued working on other precious metals in their facilities (VanGuilder, 2012). In the following years, a few containment actions were taken upon a request by NYSDEC, but "the USEPA took over as lead agency and initiated and completed a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the site" (VanGuilder, 2012, Chapter 5, p. 9). Upon such endeavors, the final cost was calculated to be $11,500,000 ("VanGuilder, 2012). Nevertheless, the site continued to stay polluted, especially downstream of MERECO, Patroon Creek, even after a meticulous cleaning process by two state agencies.

On the other hand, the Minamata incident is among the most drastic mercury-related environmental incidents worldwide. That is, Minamata is a small industrial town located in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Minamata Bay is a part of an immense sea. During the 1950s, many factories in the town spilled the mercury waste into the bay, Hyakken Harbour, mainly from Chisso Corporation (Harada, 1995; SokolMar et al., 2020). Later, the toxic compound was found and observed in shellfishes and other fish breeds that were mostly hunted and eaten by the local folk (SokolMar et al., 2020). The series of events led to a new disease called Minamata disease, affecting nearly 10,000 people across the area. One can observe the aftermath of the Minamata. Even after decades of the incidents, mysterious chemical found in a dead cat's brain" that raises concerns about mercury poisoning incidents.

According to data presented by VanGuilder (2012), the most recent endeavor on cleaning the site seems to be taken in the late 1990s, and more than ten million dollars were spent. Since USEPA already took over the case, money should not become a problem as government resources should invest in environmental protection. The case was previously registered on the priority list.

Environmental Science Essay Conclusion

Technology has developed drastically, especially within the last twenty years. Accordingly, waste site clean-up technologies have been developed, or new technologies have emerged, such as in-situ air entrainment, in-situ bioremediation, in-situ physical treatment, in-situ thermal treatment, ex-situ remediation, and so on. The MERECO hazardous site was attempted to be cleaned more than twenty years ago with inferior technologies than the present; not surprisingly, the efforts could not provide a complete success because mercury is a durable metal. Therefore, one can readily suggest that USEPA should consider applying new and appropriate hazardous site clean-up methods, as mentioned earlier. Also, Japanese authorities should concentrate on new techniques and legislations of managing hazardous waste sites to prevent future incidents similar to Minimata Bay.


Harada, M. "Minamata Disease: Methylmercury Poisoning in Japan Caused by Environmental Pollution." Critical Reviews in Toxicology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1995.

SokolMar, Joshua, et al. Mysterious Chemical Found in Dead Cat's Brain Reopens Debate over Mercury Poisoning Disaster. 25 Mar. 2020,

VanGuilder, Clifton. Hazardous Waste Management: An Introduction. Mercury Learning, 2012.

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Pelin Dalkiran
Pelin Dalkiran
Studied Maths and Coding @DEU, currently working as Front End Lead at Tamara Research, loves writing, coding, and hiking.

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