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Northern Arizona University

2002 Environmental Education Outreach Program & Northern Arizona University
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Chapter 2, Section 5:
Hazardous Waste Management

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a hazardous waste as any substance that is ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic. Traditionally, the tribes did not have to deal with these substances because they were not native to our region or were chemically locked into stable, harmless compounds in the environment. Modern techniques and industrial policies have isolated and purified these minerals and chemicals for a variety of purposes and hundreds of millions of tons of these dangerous products are made every year. As our knowledge increases, we learn that materials used for a long time in house construction and other activities are actually too dangerous for use. For example: asbestos was widely used to fireproof building materials, but we now know that asbestos fibers are toxic because they can cause cancer. According to the law, all asbestos must be removed from every inhabited structure in the United States. Hazardous waste managers are engaged in:

  • Finding alternatives to materials that will become hazardous wastes
  • Identifying and characterizing hazardous wastes
  • Permitting (issuing permits) to control production, transportation, treatment, and storage
  • Tracking to ensure safe waste handling
  • Disposing of hazardous wastes according to strict regulations
  • Monitoring disposal sites to ensure their safety
  • Reducing the use and toxicity of hazardous materials
  • Cleaning up hazardous spills and contaminated sites
  • Developing new treatment technologies
  • Assessing public health and ecological risks and impacts
  • Assessing waste disposal liability
  • Communicating with the public about the problem
  • Redeveloping waste sites

Employment Breakdown:
Over 150,000 employed, including re-mediation projects
Private sector - 77%
Public sector - 22%
Nonprofit sector - 1%

Key Job Titles:
  • Biologist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Chemist
  • Civil Engineer
  • Emergency Response Staff
  • Environmental Attorney
  • Environmental Economist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Environmental Health Specialist
  • Environmental Planner
  • Radioactive Waste Engineer
  • Hazardous Materials Specialist
  • Geologist
  • Industrial Hygienist
  • Pollution Prevention Coordinator
  • Hazardous Waste Technician

Starting salaries vary widely. Hazardous waste engineers start from $28,000 to $35,000 and can rise quickly. Technicians are paid $19,000 to $25,000, and can become chemists ($25,000 to $35,000) and supervisors ($32,000 to $42,000). Compliance specialists might earn $30,000 to $40,000. Government pollution prevention specialists providing technical assistance start at around $30,000 and rise to around $45,000 or higher. For experienced technical personnel, expect salaries of $45,000 to $70,000. For more senior managers, companies pay $75,000 to $100.000 and higher.




Environmental Education Outreach Program (EEOP)
Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP)
PO Box 5768     Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5768     Phone: (928) 523-1275     Fax: (928) 523-1280
E-mail: eeop@nau.edu

Last updated: May 27, 2005