Long Island Rail Road Pays $43,875 for Fluorescent Lamps in Trash

Proper disposal or recycling of fluorescent lights is at the heart of the recent resolution of an EPA complaint against the Long Island Rail Road, which has agreed to pay $43,875 to settle the case. EPA inspected the railroad's Hillside Maintenance Facility in Hollis, N.Y., last year, and based on that inspection and other information, the agency found violations in disposing of fluorescent light bulbs as regular garbage at three facilities.

LIRR estimates that it generated nearly 260,000 spent fluorescent light bulbs from 2003 to 2005. In July 2005, the railroad determined its spent bulbs are wastes that needed special handling in accordance with EPA rules. LIRR immediately put a program into place to recycle and properly manage its spent bulbs, EPA says, and is now in compliance with all agency rules on the proper handling of spent fluorescent bulbs, which contain mercury and can be harmful to people and the environment if improperly discarded.

According to EPA, currently available recycling systems can capture up to 99 percent of the mercury in fluorescent bulbs and the mercury can be reused in new bulbs. Other types of light bulbs, including high-intensity discharge (HID), neon, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, compact fluorescent, and metal halide lamps can also contain mercury, lead, and cadmium. While the disposal of certain low-mercury and green-tip fluorescent bulbs are not covered by EPA rules, agency regulations require that non-green-tip spent mercury and other toxic metal-containing bulbs from business, industry, and government be handled as hazardous waste or under the simpler universal waste rules to prevent the release of mercury and other toxins into the environment.

The universal waste regulations streamline collection requirements for certain hazardous wastes in the following categories: batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment (e.g., thermostats), and lamps (e.g., fluorescent bulbs). While EPA recommends that even green-tip spent bulbs be recycled because they do contain less but some mercury, some states have stricter requirements and may require that even green tip spent bulbs be handled as a hazardous waste. For more information about the federal rules for the proper disposal of mercury and other toxic metal-containing bulbs, visit www.epa.gov/region02/waste/spent-lamp.pdf.

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