EPA Plans to Kick N.J. Superfund Site Cleanup Into High Gear

Companies that dumped toxic waste at EPA Superfund sites in New Jersey will finally be held accountable for their actions, according to administrator Scott Pruitt. During a March 2018 news conference, he cited a lack of urgency, not funding, as the reason little progress has been made at sites to-date.

A total of 114 designated Superfund sites are located in New Jersey — more than any other state — including 21 of Pruitt’s highest-priority sites. Pruitt assured cleanup efforts will remain a priority, despite President Donald Trump’s proposed EPA budget cuts. He said the Agency will receive the necessary funding by holding polluters liable for cleanup.

Trump’s Pick to Lead Superfund Cleanup Employed by Polluters

In March 2018, the Trump administration announced Peter Wright as the nominee to lead the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, which oversees the cleanup of Superfund sites. Interestingly, Wright has been employed by Dow Chemical since 1999. As a senior attorney for the company, Wright has worked on Dow Chemical’s cases concerning Superfund and pollution remediation, according to the Agency.

A major polluter, Dow Chemical and its subsidiaries are cited as responsible parties for more than 100 Superfund sites across the U.S., according to an analysis by the Associated Press. Consequently, this nomination has New Jersey environmentalists — and likely those around the country — extremely concerned.

In New Jersey alone, the company is listed as the party responsible for the Ventron/Velsicol Superfund site and the neighboring Berry’s Creek Study Area in Wood-Ridge. In Dow’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company described the Wood-Ridge site as one of its “largest potential environmental liabilities.” As of Dec. 31, 2017, the company was responsible for $80 million in cleanup at the site, but only spent $7 million on it last year.

EPA Superfund Program

Established in 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) — informally known as the Superfund program — was created to assist with environmental emergencies, oil spills, and natural disasters. Designed to make communities safer and healthier for residents, the program works to help residents improve their quality of life.

In total, there are thousands of contaminated sites across the U.S., including manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites. Contamination is caused by a variety of actions, including dumping hazardous waste, leaving it out in the open, or otherwise handling it improperly.

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