The Superfund program continues to manage the clean-up of toxic waste sites. The containers and plastic-wrapped crates at this facility near Grand View, Idaho, contain hazardous waste awaiting burial. The site is not a Superfund site, but a site specifically made for toxic and nuclear-waste disposal.

Photograph by James P. Blair

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  • This facility, in a remote Idaho desert, disposes of hazardous waste. Materials disposed of in these drums may include:

    • asbestos (once used as insulation)
    • pesticides
    • PCBs (once used as coolants)
    • dust generated by steel production
    • battery acid
    • DDT
    • lead-based paints
    • waste from laboratories, such as chemically sensitive acids, mercury, or flammable liquids

    The facility also disposes of low-level radioactive waste. Low-level radioactive wastes are items that have become contaminated by exposure to radiation, usually at nuclear energy power plants. They include:

    • clothing
    • tools
    • rags
    • medical supplies, such as syringes and test tubes
    • mops
    • carcasses of animals used in laboratory experiments

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    asbestos Noun

    mineral previously used to manufacture fireproof materials and insulation.

    battery acid Noun

    toxic chemical made of hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen that is used to operate vehicle batteries. Also called sulfuric acid.

    carcass Noun

    dead body.

    contaminate Verb

    to poison or make hazardous.

    DDT Noun

    (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) toxic chemical used as an insecticide but illegal for most uses in the U.S. since 1972.

    desert Noun

    area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: desert
    facility Noun

    a building or room that serves a specific function.

    flammable Adjective

    easily set on fire.

    hazardous waste Noun

    manufacturing byproduct that is toxic or harmful to people and the environment.

    lead Noun

    chemical element with the symbol Pb.

    nuclear energy Noun

    energy released by reactions among the nuclei of atoms.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nuclear energy
    PCB Noun

    (polychlorinated biphenal) chemical substance that can occur naturally or be manufactured that may cause cancer.

    pesticide Noun

    natural or manufactured substance used to kill organisms that threaten agriculture or are undesirable. Pesticides can be fungicides (which kill harmful fungi), insecticides (which kill harmful insects), herbicides (which kill harmful plants), or rodenticides (which kill harmful rodents.)

    power plant Noun

    industrial facility for the generation of electric energy.

    radiation Noun

    energy, emitted as waves or particles, radiating outward from a source.

    radioactive waste Noun

    byproduct of nuclear fission that emits a type of heat, or radiation, that can damage the tissue of living organisms.

    remote Adjective

    distant or far away.

    steel Noun

    metal made of the elements iron and carbon.

    syringe Noun

    small device consisting of a hollow needle and tube, used for extracting or injecting fluid into the body.