Looking Back as We Move Forward: My 25 Years in the Superfund Program

By Diana Engeman

When I began working here 25 years ago, I could not appreciate the perspective I would get from working in EPA’s Superfund program from its early years, seeing it grow and evolve. In December 1980, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly referred to as Superfund. As we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Superfund program, I look forward to my 25th anniversary with EPA Region 7 here in the Heartland.

So what is Superfund? 

Superfund sites fall into two general categories: removal sites and remedial sites. Removal sites generally require short-term action. These are train car derailments, abandoned drums along a back road, or spills that may require quickly providing people with an alternative supply of clean water. The other category of Superfund sites, called remedial sites, require long-term actions to address contamination that may be more widespread or complex. Most of my work has involved remedial sites.

Little did I realize when I first started at EPA that I would be working on the first site assigned to me 25 years later – and someone will still be working on it when I retire! Does this mean I’ve failed? No, and let me explain why.

Carter Carburetor

EPA Region 7 hosts an event to announce the settlement agreements related to the Carter Carburetor Superfund Site in North St. Louis, July 29, 2013. (EPA Photo by Toni Castro)

Many Superfund sites are the result of the way hazardous materials were disposed of in the 1800s through the 1960s. Wastes from many manufacturing operations were buried underground, poured down wells, piped to waterways, or just left behind when businesses ceased operations. This was not unlawful at the time, and was probably perceived by most people as perfectly acceptable. They did not realize that, decades later, the soil where they live or the groundwater they rely on as a source of drinking water would be contaminated and unsafe to use.

There are still new Superfund remedial sites being identified in Region 7, but a significant amount of the work we do involves making sure that sites where cleanup activities were initiated many years ago, continue to make progress toward their cleanup goals, remaining safe in the meantime. This is part of the Superfund program evolution.

We are also actively involved in the redevelopment of some of these remedial sites. Even though a significant amount of contamination remains in the subsurface at one of my sites, because there is not currently a technology available to remove it, we are working with the local government on their plans to put their municipal bus storage facility on the property. There are some special issues that have to be addressed up front to make this feasible, but it’s an excellent opportunity to breathe new life into property identified as a Superfund site. It is my hope that this is the future of Superfund – new opportunities where old problems once existed.

25 years of Superfund site work

So, back to the first Superfund site assigned to me. The contamination was left at the site in the early 1900s. It was discovered in the early 1980s when the city excavated to install a new sewer line. Twenty years ago, all of the contaminated soil that could possibly be excavated was removed and treated, and the hole was backfilled under the direction and oversight of EPA. The groundwater immediately below where the contaminated soil had been is still contaminated at levels not safe to drink. But, through on-going sampling, we know exactly where the contamination remains.

No one is drinking this water or being exposed to it in any other way. There are actions taking place to treat the contaminated water, reducing the volume of water affected. Although it will take many more years before the groundwater will be “clean,” we will continue to stay on top of what is happening at the site. Superfund law requires EPA to formally review a site every five years to make sure the remedy is protecting human health and the environment. If problems are identified, they have to be addressed. This continues until the site is deemed “unrestricted use/unlimited exposure.”

This means I will probably be watching over my first Superfund site until I retire, making certain it remains safe. And it is very likely someone else will be watching over it after I retire.

Learn about Superfund’s anniversary:

About the Author: Diana Engeman has been a project manager in the Superfund program in Region 7 for 25 years. She has enjoyed the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people, both scientists and non-scientists, throughout her career at EPA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Cleanup and Redevelopment of Superfund Sites Benefits Communities

: (left to right) EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry; Tim Lott, Vice President of Capital Programs, Dallas Housing Authority; EPA Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management, Mathy Stanislaus

(left to right) EPA Region 6 Administrator Ron Curry; Tim Lott, Vice President of Capital Programs, Dallas Housing Authority; EPA Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management, Mathy Stanislaus

By Mathy Stanislaus

Thirty-five years ago, on December 11, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the law that established the Superfund program. This anniversary has led me to reflect on the tremendous progress Superfund has made in cleaning up contaminated land, surface water and groundwater across the country.

Not only is the cleanup of contaminated sites critical to protecting human health and the environment; it also produces a healthy and vibrant community. The contamination at many Superfund sites was caused by the mismanagement of hazardous industrial and commercial wastes many years ago, but some sites are contaminated from recent activity caused by increased population and urban growth and the movement of contaminants away from their sources. With more than 51 percent of the U.S. population living within three miles of a Superfund, brownfields, or Resource Conversation and Recovery Act corrective action site, our cleanup programs are critical to restoring land and water, protecting human health, and maintaining communities’ economic growth and vitality. Using census data, we found that approximately 53 million people live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, roughly 17 percent of the U.S. population, including 18 percent of all children in the U.S. under the age of five.

Through the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative, our cleanups have helped communities across the country return over 850 of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites to safe and productive commercial and industrial uses. Former Superfund sites also are being reused for residential development, recreational areas such as parks, and libraries and other public services. The reuse of previously contaminated land has had positive economic impacts on communities. Today, approximately 3,500 businesses are using cleaned up Superfund sites, generating annual sales exceeding $31 billion, and employing more than 89,000 people. In addition, residential property values near Superfund sites increased by 18 to 24 percent after a Superfund site was cleaned up and removed from our National Priorities List (NPL).

There is no stronger testament to the power of cleaning up contaminated land than what was accomplished in the historically underserved and economically challenged West Dallas area of Dallas, Texas, at the RSR Corporation Superfund site. Last month, I had the pleasure of attending an Excellence in Site Reuse event at the site, and it was especially rewarding to see how a cleanup has transformed a once-blighted area into a community asset.

For over 50 years, the West Dallas area was home to a major lead smelter operated by the RSR Corporation, which produced wastes that contaminated soil, sediment and groundwater, and the wind carried lead dust into nearby parks, schools, and neighborhoods. After the smelter’s closure in 1984, RSR Corporation conducted some initial cleanup of properties in area neighborhoods, but in 1991 our investigation identified additional contamination around the smelter. Between 1991 and 1994, we investigated nearly 7,000 residences and cleaned up the yards of over 400 properties, and in 1995 we placed the RSR Corporation site on the NPL. By that time, the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) had demolished nearby 1950s-era public housing that had been affected by lead dust. In its place, DHA constructed much-needed, new affordable housing and an office complex, which employs more than 100 people. Goodwill Industries of Dallas acquired 46 acres of cleaned-up property from DHA and built a beautiful building with offices, a distribution center, continuing education facilities, meeting rooms, and a retail store.

The RSR Corporation Superfund site and the surrounding West Dallas area now provide residents with a new supermarket and shopping center, an animal care clinic, restaurants, a wider range of housing options, public and private schools, and a YMCA. With this redevelopment, West Dallas will continue to grow.

Many of these communities are home to the most vulnerable populations – children. The West Dallas cleanup contributed to reduced blood-lead levels in area children. If left unaddressed, elevated blood-lead levels may result in irreversible neurological deficits, such as lowered intelligence and attention-related behavioral problems. A study by researchers at Tarleton University found that the average blood lead levels of children in Dallas neighborhoods affected by lead smelters, including the RSR Corporation smelter, were significantly reduced between 1980 and 2002. This decrease marked an important step in creating a brighter future for West Dallas children.

The West Dallas site is just one example of how Superfund Redevelopment helps communities reclaim and reuse formerly contaminated land. Through an array of tools, partnerships and activities, Superfund redevelopment continues to provide communities with new opportunities to grow and prosper. We at EPA are committed to working with local groups and agencies to support redevelopment and revitalization efforts and, thereby, ensure the long-term protection of public health and the environment.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds – Transforming Communities across America

By Mathy Stanislaus

Here at EPA, we’re proud of our brownfields program, which addresses contaminated sites with a community-driven and innovative approach. We provide grants and other technical assistance to communities to plan for, assess and clean up brownfield sites. There is no better example of the flexibility a brownfield grant affords a community than the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, which provides capital to make low- or no-interest loans and sub-grants to finance brownfields cleanup.

When these loans are repaid, the loan amount is then returned to the fund and re-loaned to other borrowers, providing an ongoing sustainable source of capital within a community for additional brownfields cleanups. The RLF program is important in brownfields cleanup and redevelopment and a central component of the brownfields program. Since the Brownfields Law was passed, we have awarded 330 RLF grants totaling more than $319 million. RLF grants account for over one-third of the total sites cleaned up under the brownfields program and are responsible for leveraging over 24,000 jobs and over $5 billion in other cleanup and redevelopment funding.

A great feature of the RLF is our ability to recognize and reward successful grantees by re-capitalizing their grants through supplemental funding as loan funds are depleted. We recently announced the re-capitalization of 31 of our highest performing RLF grantees with $13.2 million in new funds, allowing them to continue to issue loans and sub-grants to cleanup brownfields sites.

Many of these sites start as a high priority or target area for redevelopment. After going through the assessment and planning process, sites must secure cleanup funding. When used effectively, the RLF can clean up sites that would otherwise not be revitalized. Since traditional lenders can be reluctant to finance the cleanup component of a redevelopment project, the RLF can provide the critical gap financing needed to jump-start the redevelopment process. After that, the site is positioned to attract additional leveraged funding for redevelopment.

RLFs are key tool for states and regional planning commissions to target small and rural communities who don’t have the capacity to manage a brownfields grant or have the needed cleanup funding. In this way, the RLFs expand our reach into rural communities that may otherwise not receive our funding. In fact, in this recent round, 30 percent of the planned projects are in rural communities with populations under 20,000.

RLFs can also be great for urban areas, as demonstrated by the program established in Kansas City, MO. Kansas City has a rich history of revitalizing their brownfield sites – they’ve received funding from us, HUD, and the Missouri Housing Development Corporation. In this instance, the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council (INC), a nonprofit community development organization, led the effort to clean up the former Horace Mann School, a site in a historically disadvantaged neighborhood with prominent blight and health risks of asbestos, lead paint and mold. Through the use of $671,862 of brownfield assessment and RLF funds, Kansas City was able to assess and cleanup the site.

The site is now being redeveloped into various affordable housing options and a community building with a fitness center, library, pharmacy and community garden.  The complete redevelopment project, named Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street, will cost approximately $100 million dollars. The use of the RLF funds have enabled the nearly $5 million first phase of the redevelopment project to go forward.

It’s rewarding to see how communities are leveraging the RLF funds to transform their downtowns and bring positive change to their inhabitants. We look forward to seeing what our next round of RLF recipients will accomplish.

For more information


Former Horace Mann School, 2008 E. 39th St.

Former Horace Mann School, 2008 E. 39th St.

Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street Vision

Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street Vision

Phase I Construction – June 2015

Phase I Construction – June 2015

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Field Trip to Camden, NJ

By Carsen Mata

Tour visits the Puchack Well Field site.

Tour visits the Puchack Well Field site.

My walk to the office on Monday morning was quite different compared to most days. My stride longer, my pace faster, today I was going on a field trip! This wasn’t just any old field trip by the way, this was a two-hour trek from New York City down to Camden, New Jersey. The field trip crew that I accompanied consisted of a few seasoned EPA Region 2 staff members, our Regional Administrator Judith Enck, and Congressman Norcross of District One. The day’s itinerary had us hopping from one event to the next, guaranteeing an eventful day. First up – the Puchack Well Field site in Pennsauken, NJ. Upon arrival we were greeted by John Gorin, the remedial project manager for the site. John is the go-to guy for all things Puchack, especially when it comes to the ins and outs of the cleanup process.

The coolest part of the morning was seeing the site in full operation mode. This was surely the perfect time for a visit. Cranes and sifters were at work, soil from one area was being transported to another, and misters above the site gates were spraying the perimeter of the work zone. When everyone arrived John ran us through a brief overview of the work being done and the potential action items to come. After a short announcement and photo-op for the press we headed over to the next event at the Ray and Joan Kroc Salvation Army Center in Camden.

EPA’s John Gorin explains the cleanup plans.

EPA’s John Gorin explains the cleanup plans.

It was here that we met the Director of Economic Development for Camden, Jim Harveson, who excitedly joined Judith and Congressman Norcross in announcing that the Camden Brownfields program was receiving nearly $1 million in EPA grants. This package of grants will go towards the cleanup efforts at sites in Camden like the Harrison Avenue landfill and the former warehouse, experimental lab, and toy assembly plant at East State Street.

The press event was held outdoors with the recently constructed ball fields and playground of the Salvation Army Center serving as a beautiful backdrop. All of the event’s speakers were wonderful but Congressman Norcross, a Camden native, stepped up to the podium to address the media with a sentimental message. He reminisced about what this space once looked like and what the development of sites like these meant to the people that live there. It is clear that these grants represent much more than funding for various development projects. They symbolize the perseverance of a community that has been burdened by decades of industrial pollution. After many trying years, this area and its residents are on their way to environmental and economic success, something every community deserves.

Jim Harveson concluded the event by inviting everyone that attended back in two years. By then, he hopes the site will feature a waterfront park as well as a field of solar panels to power the center. For now, they’re taking it one site at a time, making every grant dollar count.

To finish off our day we visited a portion of the Welsbach & General Gas Mantle Superfund site in Gloucester City, just fifteen minutes south of Camden. Although a great deal of the cleanup work has already been completed, this particular area has soil and building surfaces that are still contaminated by radioactive waste. It is also situated on one of the busiest port facilities in the region, making it uniquely complex for all parties involved in the cleanup. We were joined by Rick Robinson, the remedial project manager of the site and Leo Holt – president of Holt Logistics, the owner and operator of the port, for a short bus tour around the property.

Judith Enck addresses the crowd.

Judith Enck addresses the crowd.

As soon as we witnessed cleanup and port activity occurring simultaneously, we understood the complexities of the site on a deeper level. Humongous containers filled with fruits and vegetables from all over the world were being transported by even bigger pieces of construction machinery. On the other side of the property EPA cleanup activities were being completed. I suddenly wondered, “all this activity AND an EPA cleanup? At the same time?” I’ve never felt so small in my life! Seeing the port in action and learning about the cleanup from such experienced staff solidified the fact that the EPA will stop at nothing to protect human health and the environment!

I think it’s safe to say this might be one of the best field trips I’ve ever been on.

About the Author: Carsen Mata is an intern for the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division.  She currently resides in Jersey City, NJ and is a graduate of Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT.  She is entering her last semester of graduate school at Fairfield University and will be receiving her Master of Public Administration in December 2015.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Preparing Communities for Climate Change

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy barreled into our city of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Damage was significant, and many of our neediest residents lost everything they had. Immediately after that devastating event, our community began the long process of cleanup and recovery.  With assistance from federal and state agencies and through the concerted efforts of local businesses, civic groups, and our citizens, Bridgeport has not just recovered from that event; Bridgeport has taken steps to create a brighter, more resilient future.

As one might expect, that experience has taught us important lessons.  One of those is the need to look ahead to try and anticipate and prepare for whatever the future may bring.  And that includes a changing climate.  Today, Bridgeport is taking action that can help us continue to thrive even as the climate changes.  For example, our BGreen2020 Initiative outlines policies and actions to improve the quality of life, social equity, and economic competitiveness of the city, while reducing carbon emissions and increasing the community’s resilience to the effects of climate change.

New EPA training opportunities can help other communities prepare for a changing climate.   The Climate Adaptation Training Module for Local Governments shows how climate change will likely affect a variety of local environmental and public health protection programs.  The training module also communicates what some cities and towns across America are already doing to prepare.

This new training doesn’t promise all the answers we may need to address the impacts of climate change. But it does provide a host of valuable information that can help start a process – and conversation – that could be invaluable to the future welfare of your community. I would encourage all local officials and their staff to check it out. I think you will find that it was a wise investment of your time, one that can help you meet your responsibilities and protect many more investments that lie in and around your community.

About the author:  Hon. Bill Finch was first elected as Mayor of the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2007.  He serves on the EPA Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) and chairs the LGAC’s Climate Change Resiliency and Sustainability Workgroup. Also active with the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), Mayor Finch Co-Chairs the USCM Task Force on Energy Independence and Climate Protection.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Radium Girls: Unlikely Industrial Pioneers

By Trish Taylor

I grew up in a small town and the thought of someday working for the federal government never crossed my mind as a kid. And Superfund? What’s that? Superfund cleanups were something that happened other places. Not Bloomsburg, Pa. Not my hometown. But, I’ve now been with EPA’s Philadelphia office for over 10 years and I’ve learned that that’s exactly where Superfund cleanups happen. There’s even one in my hometown, about 1 ½ miles from my mother’s house, called the Safety Light Corp. Superfund Site.

It turns out, an innocent looking brick building that seems to have been part of the landscape for as long as I can remember, has quite an interesting history linked to it. Ask any nearby neighbor and they’ll tell you that the old U.S. Radium plant has been around for decades. Some of the older neighbors may have even worked there, or have relatives who worked there. It was one of many facilities owned by U.S. Radium Corporation. In Bloomsburg, U.S. Radium turned into Metreal, Inc., which eventually turned into the Safety Light Corporation. But, long-timer locals still just call it the radium plant.

Some of that interesting history was discovered during the Superfund process. Boxes and boxes of old files have been removed from the building as part of the cleanup. Files are dated from the 1940’s, with black and white photos, work products like deck markers, and other gadgets.

It turns out that U.S. Radium workers are famous, or should I say infamous. In the 1920’s, workers who painted the dials were mostly women between the ages of 18 – 30. A handful of these women from the Orange, New Jersey plant became known as the Radium Girls. These five young women changed working safety standards in America for the better. Unfortunately, the change came as a result of their ill health.


It was customary for workers who applied the glow-in-the-dark paint (paint that glowed because it was in fact radioactive!) to use their lips to sharpen the tips of the paintbrushes to get a finer point for more precise application. The radium-activated paint was used on marine deck markers and other dials and gadgets that needed to be read in dark, unlit conditions. That’s where the radioactive component comes in. Exposure to (and in some cases, consumption of) the radium-activated paint resulted in radiation poisoning in many of the workers. Five of the women challenged their employer and filed a lawsuit. Four of the five Radium Girls died of radioactive-related illnesses before their 40th birthdays. The fifth passed away at the age of 51. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court, but the industry was changed forever. It set precedent for workers to sue for damages caused by labor abuse and industrial safety standards were improved through federal law.

The Radium Girls have a tragic but significant legacy. Their story isn’t just a cautionary tale. It a nationwide-change-to-industry-as-we-knew-it tale. Big time. Not to mention the increased level of public awareness of the dangers associated with radium.

It’s interesting to see that big things can come from seemingly small places. That local plant is a piece of a much bigger story, and every day we’re working at the EPA to ensure that communities like Bloomsburg are protected and stay healthy.

About the author: Trish Taylor is a Community Involvement Coordinator, Hazardous Site Cleanup Division, in EPA’s Philadelphia office.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Largest Superfund Settlement in History Means Cleanups from New Jersey to California

If you pollute the environment, you should be responsible for cleaning it up. This basic principle guides EPA’s Superfund cleanup enforcement program.

We just settled our largest environmental contamination case ever, for nearly $4.4 billion that will help to clean up the communities that were affected.

Here’s some background: Last April, along with the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, EPA announced a historic cleanup settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Many years ago, one of Anadarko’s subsidiaries, Kerr-McGee, conducted uranium mining and other activities that involved highly toxic chemicals at sites across the nation. These operations left contamination behind, including radioactive uranium waste across the Navajo Nation; radioactive thorium in Chicago and West Chicago, Illinois; creosote (or tar) waste in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the South; and perchlorate contamination in Nevada. All of these substances can be dangerous to people’s health.

Anadarko tried to skirt its responsibility by transferring the business assets responsible for this contamination into a now-defunct and bankrupt company called Tronox. EPA and DOJ vigorously pursued them – and the result was this new settlement. The nearly $4.4 billion that the company will pay will help to clean up toxic pollution and to turn the contaminated areas back into usable land.

This settlement took effect last week. Here are some ways that its impact will be felt:

  • In Manville, N.J., a coal tar wood treatment facility buried creosote in recreational areas. Funds will be used EPA and the state will get funds to clean up the waste left behind.
  • Not far away in Camden and Gloucester City, N.J., there’s a residential area where two former gas mantle manufacturing sites used to be. They’ve received cleanup assistance already, and this settlement means that more is on the way.
  • Funds are starting to flow to Navajo Nation territory to help clean up drinking water contaminated by radioactive waste from abandoned uranium mines.
  • Low income, minority communities in Jacksonville, Florida; West Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; and Navassa, North Carolina are benefiting from the settlement funds to clean up contamination from uranium and thorium, volatile organic compounds, pesticides and PCBs.

Companies that operate in American communities have an obligation to protect nearby residents from harm. That’s why we do enforcement — to protect communities and their health. We make sure that responsible parties are held accountable and pay to clean up the pollution they caused.

Learn more about our enforcement cleanup efforts at Superfund sites across the country, some of which include an enforcement component, in the December 2014 National Geographic Magazine.

Picture resources:
Federal Creosote site pictures:
Welsbach & Gas Mantle site pictures:
Map of Navajo Nation Abandoned Uranium Mines Superfund Cleanup Sites (larger poster PDF):
smaller image found at

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Missoula Sawmill Site: Ready for Reuse

By Ted Lanzano









On February 19th, after nearly 15 years of environmental work, the Missoula Sawmill property became fully “ready for reuse”.  This long-awaited news from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) brings relief and excitement to the community as redevelopment plans begin to accelerate.  I’ve worked with the city on a number of other Brownfield projects, but it’s a special pleasure to see this one through to completion.

Lying along the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula, Montana, the sawmill operated until the early 1990s.  By the late 1990s, the city and EPA began partnering under a then-new initiative called Brownfields to evaluate the environmental conditions at the site.  Through multiple rounds of sampling the soil and groundwater, we found elevated levels of volatile organic compounds, metals, hydrocarbons, and methane coming from buried wood debris. This landed the former sawmill on Montana’s Comprehensive Environmental Cleanup and Responsibility Act list of sites that pose a risk to human health and the environment.

Given the prime location, and the great opportunities for redevelopment, the city and other local stakeholders were undeterred and moved forward with the environmental cleanup.  The city applied for and received its first EPA Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund grant in 2004, which has now been used to issue a total of $1.8 million in remediation loans. The site also benefitted from an $833,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded Brownfields sub-grant that expedited the cleanup.

While the sawmill cleanup has taken longer than originally anticipated, the city of Missoula, and the multiple stakeholders, agree their perseverance has been worth it.  It’s exciting to see redevelopment at the site already proceeding. In 2013, Missoula completed new street and utility access to the site.  The city acquired the 15-acre riverside portion of the property, and has completed construction of significant portions of a new public park, including bike paths, greenspace, a pavilion, river access, and the use of historic sawmill objects as public art.   On the remaining privately-owned 31 acres, Millsite Revitalization Project, LLP, plans to move forward with mixed retail and housing developments.  I’m looking forward to visiting when I’m in Missoula this summer, and can’t wait to see how the area evolves in the years to come.

About the Author: Ted Lanzano is an EPA Brownfields Project Manager in Denver, Colorado, and has been with the Agency for 10 years. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Changing the Health of a Community – Beyond Land Cleanup

By Mathy Stanislaus

When I went to Omaha, NE last week, I was excited for Superfund’s big announcement: the delisting of over 1,000 residential parcels from the Omaha Lead Superfund site. This was an important milestone in EPA’s overall site cleanup activities, particularly for the residents whose properties were contaminated with toxic lead from the ASARCO smelter cleaned up.

It was also important to the children of the community – our efforts resulted in measurable health improvements: the percentage of children in eastern Omaha with elevated blood lead levels have been reduced from nearly 33 percent before 1998 to less than two percent today.

By reducing blood lead levels, you change people’s lives. You protect a child for his/her entire life and you change the health of a community. As part of one of the largest cleanup projects – particularly in an urban setting – in the Superfund program with over 40,000 largely lower-income residencies, I was very proud to acknowledge the public health impacts from eliminating lead exposure (significant reduction of blood lead levels in children) and the economic benefits of the cleanup.

I spoke with several people when I made the announcement and two really stood out in my mind. One individual explained that what began as basic outreach on public health resulted in a permanent institution in the community to look at children’s health at a multiple of ways that go beyond the lead cleanup.

I also spoke with the person that fields the calls from residents to deal with their issues on a day-to-day basis. They explained how challenging the work can be but understood how EPA can deal with community concerns regarding cleanups and explain how cleanups are done in a way that is protective but also accommodates their lives.

This isn’t easy work. Nor was the cleanup. It was easy to see how challenging these resident-by-resident cleanups were and I’m proud of the work EPA and contractors have done. This cleanup created hundreds of high-paying seasonal jobs and contributed to the development of a skilled labor force with job training funded through an EPA cooperative agreement with the Omaha Metropolitan Community College. Not only are we contributing to improving children’s health, but we’re transforming the community economically.

About the author: Mathy Stanislaus is assistant administrator for EPA’s Office Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Working Together for a Successful Cleanup Leads to Revitalization and Economic Opportunity for a Utah Community

By Craig Boehr

The Midvale Slag Superfund Site, located in Midvale City, Utah, is adjacent to the city’s downtown area and is about twelve miles south of Salt Lake City. Smelters operated on the site from 1871 through 1958, which resulted in the contamination of soil and groundwater with heavy metals. EPA representatives, the Midvale City government, and the site’s owner all worked together to successfully clean up the site and transform the once contaminated property into a thriving multi-use redevelopment project that has revitalized the local economy.

As is often the case, reuse projects that involve liability concerns require creative uses of enforcement tools in order to secure the successful clean up of sites. At Midvale Slag, EPA’s attorneys and project managers negotiated a consent decree with Midvale City and the site’s current owner, which was signed in 2004. The consent decree included innovative provisions that allowed the owner to pay for cleanup and be incrementally reimbursed with money from a special account set up for the site. The account was funded through settlements with responsible parties (those who had contributed to the contamination at the site), and the money could only be used for cleanup purposes. This enforcement approach enabled the site’s owner to clean the site up at a lower cost and laid the groundwork for Midvale City’s vision for future development.

The consent decree also established long-term stewardship principles at the site by clarifying parties’ ongoing cleanup roles and responsibilities, and addressed the concerns of potential future owners by including a section on the bona fide prospective purchaser (BFPP) liability protection. Under Superfund, BFPPs are not liable as an owner/operator for cleanup costs, reducing a potential barrier to future redevelopment at a contaminated site.

Through these efforts, a once stagnant, contaminated property has been transformed into a valuable part of Midvale City. Currently, the site includes:

  • A 95,000-square-foot grocery store,
  • 175,000 square feet of Gold and Silver LEED-certified office space,
  • More than 1,000 completed residential units,
  • A Utah Transit Authority (UTA) light rail station,
  • An 18-acre park with local and regional trails, and
  • 20 acres of open space with a wetland mitigation area.

According to Midvale officials, it is estimated that the cleanup has already resulted in approximately 600 new jobs and about $1.5 million in annual property tax revenues. For more information on how the EPA helped to turn the Midvale Slag site into a community asset, please see our recently-published case study.

About the author: Craig Boehr is an attorney in the Office of Site Remediation Enforcement, which is the enforcement office for the Superfund program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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