By Brendan Lyons of the Times Union. The usefulness of the EPA in cleaning up Superfund sites, a creation which often gets credited to Lois Gibbs and is a label for toxic waste removal as a government and corporate responsibility, is severely unfunded. Here’s a look at some of those repercussions.
The 2002 chemical release would haunt the tiny village near Rochester for years. The accidental discharge at the Diaz Chemical plant showered contaminants on the residential neighborhood surrounding the facility, blanketing homes and playgrounds with potentially toxic substances.
A few months later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which would declare the plant a federal Superfund site, took over responsibility for relocating the occupants of eight homes who fled and refused to return to their residences. It took another nine years for the EPA to settle on a plan to fully clean up the site. Two weeks ago, workers finally began relocating a public water line that runs through the abandoned factory site in Orleans County.
“Anytime you have a time lag like we experienced, it’s always frustrating,” said John W. Kenney Jr., who was mayor of the village of Holley for 10 years beginning in 2006, and a village trustee for three years before that.
A 75-year-old who has lived in the village for more than 50 years, Kenney said it was frustrating that it took so long for the EPA to mobilize its cleanup plan and arrange for the eventual sale of the abandoned residences, which the EPA last week said is “being worked on in preparation to have the eight homes placed back on the real estate market.”
For the embattled EPA, the arguably slow response times to many environmental disasters — some of which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up — may be tied to dwindling funding rather than a lack of urgency.