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One Billion Additional Dollars for Superfund – It’s Still a Drop in the Bucket

Photo Credit: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

By Sharon Franklin.

The Superfund program was established in 1980 to clean up sites contaminated sites with hazardous substances.  On February 27, 2023 CBS News reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will attempt to speed the cleanup of 85 ongoing Superfund projects across America by infusing $1 billion of funds into the program. The EPA also identified twenty-five (25) toxic waste sites in 15 and two territories states that will get a funding boost. These one billion dollars represent the third and last installment of the $3.5 billion allocated under the 2021 infrastructure law signed by President Biden.

These sites can be found via the Superfund Enforcement Cleanup Work Map. A few of the long-contaminated sites slated for cleanup are:

  • A former smelting plant in East Helena, Montana.
  • An old textile mill in Greenville, South Carolina.
  • A beach area was blighted nearly 60 years ago by lead battery casings and other toxic material used to build a seawall and jetty in Raritan Bay, Old Bridge, and 2 other sites in New Jersey.
  • Four sites including West Hazleton at the former Valmont Industrial Park in Pennsylvania.
  • Three sites including the Clearlake Oaks Sulphur Bank mercury mine in California.

As many affected communities know first-hand, the Superfund program was not funded for years but has been replenished after Congress included a “polluter pays” tax in the 2021 infrastructure law. “The tax took effect in 2022 and is set to collect up to $23 billion over the next five years,” said New Jersey Democrat Representative, Frank Pallone, who pushed for reinstatement of the tax in the 2021 law.For New Jersey residents, the Superfund Program is very important because New Jersey has more Superfund sites than any other state, and half of its 9.3 million residents live within three miles of a Superfund site. Pallone also said, “Superfund sites threaten public and environmental health across the country,” including New Jersey, “but with today’s announcement, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is continuing to deliver on the promise we made to clean up backlogged sites and give our communities the peace of mind they deserve.”

Pallone’s remarks on Superfund concluded by saying “I really believe that all of our communities across the country deserve to enjoy their towns and use their space without fear of the health risks that come with living near a Superfund site,’‘   Corporate polluters — not taxpayers— should pay to clean up the messes they created.”

As encouraging as this windfall is, we need to recognize that only 85 of the nation’s 1,300 Superfund site would be addressed through this program.