superfund

Solid Waste Law Helps Keep Water Clean

by Mike Giuranna

RCRA1The Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act deservedly get much of the credit for protecting the water you drink, but there’s another law you made not have heard of that’s no slouch either when it comes to keeping your water clean – the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, often referred to as RCRA.

How so?  At EPA my specialty is landfills, so let’s start there. Before RCRA, which marks its 40th Anniversary this year, open dumps were a common method of waste disposal.  It sounds hard to believe now, but back then we did not have widely-recognized systems in place for managing landfills, making it easy for leaks to occur, and our water and land to become contaminated.  Many dumps were responsible for polluting water sources and soils, causing potential harm to public health.  As a result, numerous landfills and dumps became Superfund sites needing cleanup.

In 1991, Congress passed Subtitle D of RCRA, establishing a protective, practical system for disposing of trash in municipal solid waste landfills.  These federal standards had major benefits including a decline in the total number of landfills nationwide from an EPA estimate of 20,000 in the 1970s to less than 2,000 in 2014.

Under RCRA, states have stepped up to the plate in taking the primary responsibility for enforcing landfill regulations.  My job is to make sure the states understand the requirements, providing support and sharing experiences from other states along the way.  Here are some of the water-related protections we review:

  • Making sure that landfills are operating away from seismic fault lines, flood plains or other restricted areas.
  • Using multiple liners like compacted clay and flexible membranes to protect groundwater and underlying soil from any liquid releases from the landfill (known as leachate).
  • Providing guidance on the installation of groundwater monitoring wells to determine whether waste materials have escaped from the landfill.
  • Developing corrective action processes for controlling and cleaning up if landfill releases occur.
  • Monitoring groundwater once a landfill is properly closed after reaching capacity.

RCRA ensures that landfills are contained and operating with public health in mind.  Next time you throw something away, think about all of the work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure your trash is handled properly and your water is kept clean. But better yet, always remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever you can!

 

About the Author: Mike has been with EPA since 1983. He has worked in various EPA programs including Air and Superfund.  For the last 20 years he has worked in solid waste, recycling, landfill regulation and composting

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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Mr. Superfund

By Wanda Ayala

In the comic books we have fictional superheroes like Batman and Superman whose mission is to safeguard the people of Gotham or Metropolis, communities that are similar to where many of us work or live. Here, in our Region 2 offices, we have our own hero. His name is Walter Mugdan, head of our Emergency and Remedial Response Division, and I call him “Mr. Superfund.” He is part of a great team of people dedicated to public service, many of whom started when the Agency was young (so were they!) as part of a movement that was taking place in our society to ensure that we safeguarded our people and our nation from the consequences of pollution. Mr. Superfund knows and explains to others that EPA is not just about consolidating authority over environmental issues, but that we work to establish standards for industry and life that directly and indirectly affect public health and our overall well-being. Having an EPA means the concerns over the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the ground that we walk on are reduced because our environment is being protected and maintained.

Walter Mugdan addresses Newtown Creek Superfund Site Community Advisory Group in Brooklyn, NY

Walter Mugdan addresses Newtown Creek Superfund Site Community Advisory Group in Brooklyn, NY

 

About the Author: Wanda Ayala is a community involvement coordinator in New York City.

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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Superfund Investigates Land Pollution from the Past…and Present

By Mathy Stanislaus

On September 7, 2016, we took steps to respond to states, tribes and citizens who asked for our help addressing contaminated sites. In response, we are adding 10 hazardous waste sites to the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is our list of more than 1,300 of the most contaminated sites in the country that we are addressing under the Superfund program. Superfund is one of the most important federal programs to improve the health, environment and economy of America’s communities.

As I’ve traveled across the country during my tenure as Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, I’ve seen firsthand how the mismanagement of contamination and hazardous waste can threaten entire communities. According to census data, approximately 53 million people live within three miles of a Superfund site – roughly 17% of the U.S. population, including 18% of all children in the U.S. under the age of five. Some groups, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly, may be at particular risk. During environmental emergencies, health threats — poisoning, injuries from fires and explosions — are often urgent and immediate. At other sites, health effects of contamination — cancer, birth defects — may be more long term. Under the most difficult circumstances, communities reach out to us to use the Superfund program to protect them from these risks.

We continue to find sites where recent operations have resulted in the mismanagement of contamination that warrant our investigation. In addition to adding 10 sites to the NPL, we are proposing the addition of eight more. Nine of these 18 sites were in operation within the last two decades, including several as recently as the late 2000s. Pollution at these 18 sites came from a variety of sources, including manufacturing, mining, battery recycling and dry cleaning.

One area we are listing on the NPL is the Bonita Peak Mining District in San Juan County, Colorado. Mining began there in the 1870s and continued into the 1990s. The Bonita Peak Superfund site includes 48 sources, comprised of 35 mines (including Gold King Mine) and 13 other mining-related areas. We have drainage data on 32 of these sources and we estimate that they collectively contribute an average of 5.4 million gallons of mine-influenced water per day to the Upper Animas River watershed. This water includes metals such as cadmium, copper, manganese and zinc that threaten the health of the watershed and downstream communities.

More broadly, the addition of the sites to the NPL continues a 35-year history of EPA improving the lives of those who reside on or near Superfund sites. Academic research has shown the cleanup of Superfund sites reduces birth defects of those close to a site by as much as 25 percent. Cleanups involving lead-contaminated soil have contributed to documented reductions in children’s blood-lead levels.

In addition, Superfund cleanups have a positive impact on local economies by enabling the reuse of previously unusable land. More than 850 Superfund sites nationwide have some type of actual or planned reuse underway. Last year, we reviewed 454 Superfund sites supporting use or reuse activities and found they had approximately 3,900 businesses with 108,000 employees and annual sales of more than $29 billion.

As our recent listing demonstrates, land pollution continues to occur from a variety of sources. It is not only an issue at abandoned industrial sites riddled with buried hazardous material, or at waste sites that operated before our nation’s environmental laws were enacted. Land pollution is still an issue — often due to the mismanagement of contaminants from more recent operations. Unfortunately, the Superfund program is needed as much today as in the past to clean up communities from such mismanagement.

Our Superfund program will continue to respond to requests from states, tribes and citizens to investigate all eras of pollution — past and present — to protect communities and hold polluters accountable. I am proud of the work our Superfund program has completed to date, and I encourage you to read more about its 35-year history and its highlights.

More information about the September 2016 NPL listing can be found here. http://go.usa.gov/xZ9nP.

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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A Reflection on the Gold King Mine Incident

By Mathy Stanislaus

Today, we are releasing a new publication, One Year After the Gold King Mine Incident: A Retrospective of EPA’s Efforts to Restore and Protect Communities. The report details our efforts — including the projects and groups we have funded — to protect the areas around the Gold King Mine (GKM) and prevent another spill like this from happening at other EPA work sites at mines across the country.

We continue to be accountable for the release, which occurred as a result of our work to investigate the mine. Since the accident, we have dedicated more than $29 million to respond to the release and to provide for continued monitoring in the area. Over the past year, we have remained committed to distilling important lessons from the incident, and are working on a more permanent solution to acid mine drainage in the Upper Animas Watershed. We have improved and tested stakeholder notification lists, instituted a headquarters review and state consultation process for all mine work plans prior to starting work at a site, provided grant assistance to foster collaboration and help support state and tribal water quality management programs,  and are developing a national report on best practices for hardrock mine remediation. We have worked with communities within the Bonita Peak Mining District area for many years on long-term solutions to address the estimated discharge of more than 5 million gallons per day of acidic mine influenced water to the Upper Animas River watershed. In April, we proposed a Superfund National Priorities Listing for the Bonita Peak Mining District (which includes Gold King Mine) and are working to finalize the listing this fall.

As Assistant Administrator for our Office of Land and Emergency Management, I can say that tackling the national environmental issue of abandoned mines is one of the toughest challenges we face. There are no overarching federal statutes or regulations for addressing the environmental contamination from abandoned hardrock mines. When requested by state or tribal partners, our Superfund program has been used to investigate and remediate abandoned mines that present a high risk to human and environmental health.  A 2015 Government Accountability Office report estimates that we spend anywhere from 7 to 52 times more at mining sites than at other types of Superfund sites.

Overall, the scale of this problem is striking. There are at least 161,000 abandoned hardrock mines in the western U.S. states and Alaska. Water draining from these types of mines and mine tailings are often highly acidic and release heavy metals such as zinc, lead, cadmium, copper and aluminum into the groundwater and surface waters the public relies on for drinking, agricultural irrigation and recreation.

The legacy of abandoned hardrock mines continues to be a source of complex challenges for our and the other federal and state agencies working to address this impact over the long-term. We thank all of our federal, tribal, state and local partners for their contributions to this first year of work following the GKM incident. We are strongly committed to working together to achieve long-term solutions to prevent future releases and protect our vital water resources. For more information, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/goldkingmine.

 

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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EPA: “Aim High” – Working Toward a Sustainable Future

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

Last month, I asked EPA employees to share how their work at EPA is contributing to a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids. I wanted to hear about the many ways our staff are going above and beyond EPA’s foundational work to limit harmful pollution, and taking proactive steps to build healthy, economically vibrant communities.

Our teams responded in force, with 55 stories about the diverse, creative, and innovative ways they are building a sustainable future. Our best ideas are those that can be shared, replicated, and built upon. And we have so much to learn from each other’s successes. Here are some team highlights from across the agency:

Sustainable city planning: A team based in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in partnership with a number of EPA offices and regions, is looking at the connection between green infrastructure, energy consumption, and improved air quality. The team is providing technical assistance to Kansas City, MO-KS, to help better quantify the changes in pollution that result from “greening” of urban infrastructure in the area (i.e., green streets, green roofs, trees). This project will ultimately help promote green infrastructure projects that demonstrably improve water quality and advance sustainability – so that they can be incorporated into future city planning.

Green Remediation: EPA Region 1 is using strategies to make the cleanup of contaminated sites more sustainable, including by promoting, tracking, and considering green and sustainable remediation practices for Brownfield sites and Superfund sites. These efforts are helping to minimize the impacts of remediation and cleanup efforts, and ensure long-term, sustainable outcomes.

Community-Based Social Marketing: Region 5 provided funding and contractor assistance to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, as they worked with their local tribal college to improve waste management. The project used community-based social marketing (CBSM) techniques to develop positive behavior strategies that are culturally appropriate. The project focused on increasing recycling behavior at the Band’s community college. Results from the pilot showed a 41% overall increase in the recycling rate at major locations throughout the campus. The Band worked with Region 5 and contractor support to put together a Tribal CBSM Training Guide, based on the lessons learned from the pilot to encourage other tribes to use CBSM to increase sustainable behaviors.

Coordinating Across EPA Programs: EPA Region 10 staff from Superfund, Clean Water Act, TSCA and Counsel have coordinated for several years to better align and sustain efforts in reducing toxics in waters. Staff recognized that in order to achieve more sustainable and long-lasting results, they needed to work together to more efficiently and effectively reduce toxics in the environment.  This includes addressing ongoing sources of and pathways for pollutants and aligning overlapping programmatic efforts to “clean up” waters and sediments. This small ad-hoc group ensured that language was added to EPA’s National Industrial Stormwater General Permit requiring those discharging into local Superfund Sites to work with the Regional office to minimize impacts and prevent caulking and paint sources of PCBs from getting into Superfund sediment sites. Region 10 staff also wrote language included in the Washington General Fish hatchery Permit to identify and remove sources of PCBs.

CWSRF: The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program is a federal-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and the Farmer’s Irrigation District (FID) collaborated and used the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) to convert miles of open, earthen irrigation ditch system to a pressurized and piped system for Hood River’s Farmers Irrigation District. Most recently the Farmers Irrigation District also began using the CWSRF loans to purchase equipment for production of clean, renewable energy through micro-­‐hydroelectric generation.

I couldn’t be prouder of the work EPA employees are doing across the country. Here’s to more creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in the months and years ahead.

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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The Foundation Has Been Laid: Helping the Community That Made Me Who I Am

By Stanley Walker

Stan WalkerIn 1969, I first walked up the steps to Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo. The steps were strong, sturdy, and built on a foundation of community, love, and support. I was so excited to be able to go to school like the other kids in the neighborhood, more importantly being able to walk with my older brother and sister. It was a great feeling. At five years old, I felt like I was finally growing up by being able to walk up those steps and enter the school as a real Horace Mann student.

For the next eight years, I would be in a learning environment filled with knowledge, wisdom, and street smarts. Day in and day out, I would be in the presence of the best teachers, smartest students, and of course, some of the greatest athletes in the area.Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo.

On Sept. 23, 2015, I had the opportunity to walk up the steps of hope again. However, it was under different circumstances. The Environmental Protection Agency was awarding Kansas City, Mo., a grant to help communities such as the Ivanhoe Neighborhood revitalize that area.

Although the school has been torn down, the bricks have been saved and are being reused on the site. Saving the bricks serves as another symbol for me. The bricks have endured strong winds, blisteringly hot summers, and bitterly cold winters. Like the bricks, many folks in the community have endured the various seasons of life. You can sometimes see the chips and scars left by the seasons on the faces of the community. However, the strength for the community to get up one more time from the poverty, urban flight, crime, and neglect reminds me how Evander Holyfield stormed back after taking a vicious punch from Riddick Bowe. I watch the community get back on its feet before the count of 10 with the addition of the Aldi’s store on 39th and Prospect, and the duplexes being built to replace the school.

While at the celebration, someone Stan Walker poses for photofound a piece of an old chalkboard. It evoked memories of being able to go up to the board and work a problem in front of my class, which was a real honor. For almost 50 years, there were a couple of pillars like Mrs. Margaret May who kept the foundation strong and pieced it back together when it began to crumble. As I stood next to her on that September day, I could not thank her enough for preserving the foundation of a strong community. Much of who I was, who I am, and who I will become will still come back to the foundation built by Horace Mann Elementary School.

About the Author: Stanley Walker manages the Superfund Technical Assistance and Reuse Branch at EPA Region 7. 

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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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: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-35th-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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Protecting Communities through Superfund Enforcement

By Cyndy Mackey

December 2015 marked the 35th Anniversary of the Superfund program, the federal government’s most successful program designed to clean up the nation’s contaminated land and water and respond to environmental emergencies. I oversee EPA’s Superfund enforcement program, which focuses on cleaning up neighborhoods, ensuring that the polluter pays, and protecting human health and the environment.

The past 35 years have brought significant changes to Superfund through congressional amendments, changes to perspective through reauthorization discussions, and interpretations from the judicial system. Not only has the law changed, but technology has, too.

I am proud to have dedicated my career to cleaning up contaminated sites, and my goal in my current role is to support EPA’s work to find responsible parties and make sure that polluters pay for the cost of cleanups instead the American taxpayers.

For every dollar spent by the Superfund enforcement program, private parties commit to spending eight dollars toward cleanup work leading to restoration of land and water, facilitating reuse and revitalization, and protecting communities. Since the program inception, EPA has secured over $35.1 billion in private party commitments and over $6.9 billion to recover past cleanup costs. EPA has been instrumental in helping to get the responsible parties to pay for cleanup of sites across the country. For example:

  • A 2006 enforcement agreement with General Electric resulted in a $2.7 billion cleanup of contaminated sediment and 300,000 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) being removed from the Hudson River riverbed. The dredging of the Hudson River PCB Superfund Site was completed in October 2015.
  • A 2014 settlement to resolve fraudulent conveyance charges against Anadarko and Kerr-McGee associated with the Tronox bankruptcy means $1.9 billion will go toward cleanup of contaminated Superfund sites across the country.
  • A 2009 agreement required $975 million for the cleanup of contamination at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee. This agreement facilitates the cleanup of 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash waste impacting the Emory River and adjacent land.
  • In 2007, EPA collected more than $124 million from Hercules Incorporated to recover costs for the Agency’s cleanup work at the Vertac Chemical and Jackson Landfill Superfund Sites in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

EPA’s Superfund enforcement program is strong and is committed to finding new solutions as we address new sites, industrial processes, and hazardous substances to ensure human health and the environment are protected in communities across the country.

More information about Superfund’s accomplishments over the past 35 years.

About the author: Cyndy Mackey oversee EPA’s Superfund enforcement program, which focuses on cleaning up neighborhoods, ensuring that the polluter pays, and protecting human health and the environment.

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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Superfund Turns 35

By James Woolford

December 11 marks the 35th anniversary of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act—better known as Superfund—that President Jimmy Carter signed into law in 1980. Anniversaries are good occasions to look back on what’s been accomplished. For Superfund’s 35th anniversary, we chose the theme 35 Years, 35 Stories to give people across the country an opportunity to reflect on the difference Superfund cleanups have made in their communities.

From the 35 stories on our website, you will hear again and again how cleaning up a hazardous waste site signaled a community’s new beginning. You’ll hear how protecting human health and the environment makes a positive difference in people’s lives. You’ll hear how a clean environment and a thriving economy go hand in hand in making a better community.

Take for example, the Kansas City Structural Steel site in Kansas. The former steel plant was shut down in the 1980s, leaving behind contamination and hundreds of unemployed workers. A blighted spot in the community for years, the site was cleaned up and made suitable for redevelopment. As part of our 35 Years, 35 Stories series, you’ll learn more about how the site came to be the location for a Walmart Neighborhood Market in the underserved Argentine neighborhood.

You’ll also hear from Alex Mandell, a community involvement coordinator in our Philadelphia regional office, about land restoration around the Palmerton Zinc site in Pennsylvania. Beginning in the early 1900s and continuing for 80 years, zinc smelters released heavy metals into the surrounding area’s land and waters. The smelting activities eventually denuded over 2000 acres of land on the Blue Mountain near the Appalachian Trail. Superfund activities included cleaning up residential yards and surface water, as well as extensive replanting of native vegetation. The land now is a thriving native prairie and home to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, where both wildlife and the public can enjoy the open space.

I’ve spent most of my career involved in one aspect or another with the Superfund program. During the early years of my career, I was involved with Superfund enforcement, and I later oversaw federal facility site cleanups when I headed up EPA’s Federal Facility Restoration and Reuse Office. Nine years ago, on Superfund’s 26th anniversary, December 11, 2006, I became the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation’s director. What keeps me inspired every day is the fulfillment I realize working in a program that makes a visible difference in people’s lives.

The 35 stories we’ve captured for the 35th anniversary of Superfund are just a portion of the environmental and economic restoration work occurring across the country. There are many more stories to be told.

About the author: James Woolford is the Director of the Office of Superfund Restoration and Technology Innovation.

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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