Cleaning up hazardous waste sites protects human health, raises property value and facilitates the economic restoration of communities
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added two hazardous waste sites that pose risks to human health and the environment to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. In addition, the agency is proposing to add six additional sites to the list.
“By updating the NPL, we continue to fulfill our mission to protect public health and the environment by cleaning up contaminated land and returning formerly toxic sites to communities for productive use,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “Superfund cleanups help advance the economic well-being of communities by turning contaminated properties into productive community resources that can enhance property values, create jobs and broaden tax bases.”
Recent academic research contributes more evidence that Superfund cleanups help protect public health. An academic study, Superfund Cleanups and Infant Health, demonstrated that investment in Superfund cleanups reduces the incidence of congenital abnormalities for those living within 5,000 meters (or 5,468 yards) of a site.
Today, more than 800 Superfund sites across the nation support some type of continued use, active reuse or planned reuse activities. EPA found at 450 of the 800 sites, at the end of fiscal year 2014, there were ongoing operations of approximately 3,400 businesses, generating annual sales of more than $65 billion and employing more than 89,000 people. Another study conducted by researchers at Duke and Pittsburgh Universities, concluded that making a site final on the NPL may increase housing prices by signaling that a site will be cleaned up. Furthermore, the study found that once a site has all cleanup remedies in place, nearby properties have a significant increase in property values as compared to pre-NPL proposal values.
The following two sites have been added to the NPL:
- Kokomo Contaminated Ground Water Plume (ground water plume) in Kokomo, Ind.; and
- DSC McLouth Steel Gibraltar Plant (steel finishing operation) in Gibraltar, Mich.
The following six sites have been proposed for addition to the NPL:
- Estech General Chemical Company (pesticide manufacturer) in Calumet City, Ill.;
- Colonial Creosote (wood treatment plant) in Bogalusa, La.;
- BJAT LLC (various industrial operations) in Franklin, Mass.;
- Anaconda Aluminum Company Columbia Falls Reduction Plant (aluminum smelter) in Columbia Falls, Mont.;
- Main Street Ground Water Plume (ground water plume) in Burnet, Texas; and
- Grain Handling Facility at Freeman (grain handling facility) in Freeman, Wash.
The Superfund program, a federal program established by Congress in 1980, investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country and converts them into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination associated with hazardous waste sites.
The sites announced here have characteristics and conditions that vary in terms of size, complexity and contamination. As with all NPL sites, EPA first works to identify the parties responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly added sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting substantial cleanup at the site.
Past and current uses of the sites announced include pesticide manufacturing, aluminum smelting, grain handling, wood treatment and steel finishing operations. Improper hazardous waste management associated with these activities, led to the release of numerous site contaminants into the environment, including lead, mercury, zinc and other metals; polychlorinated biphenyls; and chlorinated solvents, such as vinyl chloride. Contamination affects surface water, groundwater, soil and wetlands.
The Kokomo Contaminated Ground Water Plume is in an area with facilities that handle chlorinated solvents, however no source has been identified. The plume is approximately 294 acres and encompasses several municipal wells in the city. Approximately 55,000 Kokomo residents rely on drinking water from the affected well field.
The DSC McLouth Steel Gibraltar Plant Area site is a former steel processing facility which ceased operations in the mid- 1990s where mismanaged leachate control systems have resulted in contamination to adjacent creeks and drains leading to the Detroit River.