April 26, 2007 The Pump Handle 2Comment

In a year-long investigation that involved more than 100 Freedom of Information Act requests to EPA, the Center for Public Integrity discovered that Superfund site cleanups are being started and completed more slowly than in the past; that the reimbursements the Superfund program is getting back from companies for cleanups has steadily declined; and that a lack of funds has delayed needed work at some hazardous sites.

Superfund sites are areas that companies or government entities have moved away from, leaving hazardous materials behind. The Superfund program was initiated in 1980 to “locate, investigate, and clean up the worst sites nationwide.” U.S. residents should care about this program because, the Center’s analysis found, nearly half of the U.S. population lives within ten miles of one of the 1,304 active and proposed Superfund sites listed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

There are 114 sites whose neighbors might find this report particularly worrisome. The Center’s Alex Knott explains:

At least 114 of the sites could pose immediate health hazards for people living nearby, according to the EPA. The agency has determined that the risk of human exposure to dangerous contaminants at those sites is not under control or that contaminated groundwater could be migrating off-site, according to EPA records.

Residents concerned about Superfund sites in their area can click on interactive state maps to find details about different sites, including each site’s status, the parties potentially responsible for the site, and the contaminants identified there.

Anyone interested in researching particular companies’ involvement with Superfund sites will find plenty of useful information here, too.

The Center obtained a “controversial and confidential government document,” and analyzed it to generate a list of roughly 100 companies and federal government entitites that are connected to more than 40 percent of America’s most dangerously contaminated toxic waste sites. Click on the name of a company to find out which Superfund sites it’s linked to — or, plug its name into the Privately Sponsored Travel database and see if they’ve paid for travel by EPA officials.

There’s also a list of contractors who’ve received $25 million or more from the EPA between 1998 and 2005 — and 12 of them were also linked to Superfund sites.

This site is an excellent resource for local residents and researchers investigating companies’ environmental records. Let’s hope its release also puts some pressure on the EPA to speed up work on sites that pose hazards to their neighbors.

Liz Borkowski works for the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services.

2 thoughts on “Investigation Highlights Superfund’s “Toxic Legacy”

  1. I want to add our organization, People Investigating Toxic Sites, to your list of resources for people concerned about where they live and work. Our website has locations of dumps that have contaminated groundwater and caused illnesses in communities across the country. Most of these dumps were in operation during a time of few government regulations on waste disposal. Even if a dump is not on the Superfund list, it could be just as dangerous. Very few of these dumps have been cleaned up, only covered up with parks, golf courses, shopping centers and homes. The dumps may now look good, but looks can be deceiving. Groundwater is still being contaminated and people are still being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.
    Please contact us for more information,
    People Investigating Toxic Sites

  2. Howdy yes I’m learning the hard way about Superfund sites
    Canon City, Colorado is home to Cotter’s Uranium Mill which has been a Superfund site since 1984. Cotter’s to this day is contaminating the water,air and Land. This Uranium Mill sits on top of 6000 residents, built back in 1958 We are now being faced with this Uranium Mill going back online in production of Uranium Ore 25 miles away from Canon , up Tallahassee (county rd 2) Fremont County the abandened Uranium Mines of the 1970’s are being explored for the Mining of Uranium which threats more water, air and health we have two websites that we are using to info the public and County residents. downtheyellowcakeroad.org taccolorado.com
    I look forward to getting feed back thank you

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