By Mathy Stanislaus
Thirty-five years ago, the Superfund program was created to clean up sites where hazardous releases have occurred or might occur. At some of these sites, there are potential long-term human health effects from contamination, such as cancers, birth defects, or respiratory issues. Contaminated sites can also cause long-term harm to fish, wildlife, and other natural resources if not addressed and managed. At other sites, the risk might be more immediate in the form of fires and explosions. By implementing the Superfund statute with the help of residents, and collaboration with state, tribal and local officials, we can restore these sites that threaten the health and environment of communities across the country. That is why we recently added five sites, and proposed adding an additional eight to the National Priorities List (NPL).
During the last seven years leading our Office of Land and Emergency Management, I have seen first-hand the benefit of the Superfund program and how it invests in and transforms environmentally blighted sites into community assets. The Superfund program is an excellent example of collaboration and public partnership. For example, in downtown Corinna, Maine at the Eastland Woolen Mill site, a former 22-acre textile mill left extensive soil, groundwater and drinking water contamination, making the area a challenge for the community to develop. The Town of Corinna took action and obtained a grant from us to develop a plan for the area. Working with the town officials and community the Corinna Village Center reuse plan was completed. When the work was finished, what once stood as a contaminated industrial site was a revived landscape complete with features including a restored downtown, recreational trail, river walk, and a community bandstand for events.
This success story isn’t limited to Corinna, or the state of Maine; it’s one that I’ve observed in hundreds of cities and towns across the country. In addition to aesthetic and health benefits, research has shown that the cleanup of these sites can result in increased property values of between 18.6 – 24.5 percent for the surrounding areas as compared to their pre-NPL proposal values. This creates economic vitality for areas that were previously challenged with the threat of contamination. We also found that last year 454 of our national clean-up sites in reuse supported 3,900 businesses, which employed more than 108,000 workers and generated annual sales of $29 billion. These workers also earned a combined income of $7.8 billion. It’s all of these benefits that make lasting visible differences in our communities and demonstrate the impact of the Superfund program. We will continue to work with communities across the country to address contaminated sites which will provide benefits to those areas for generations to come. If you would like more information about the Superfund program, please visit https://www.epa.gov/superfund.