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Lawmaker Opens Inquiry Into EPA Superfund Clean Up

waste-shutterstockA California lawmaker opened an inquiry with the EPA into shortfalls of toxic cleanup at Superfund sites.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif, has asked for information about EPA’s monitoring of interstate transport and treatment of hazardous waste from Superfund sites, alternative cleanup methods and whether the agency has enough regulatory authority.

Eshoo is particularly concerned that the EPA is failing to properly monitor and regulate the emissions associated with remediating the toxic pollutants recovered from Superfund sites. The inquiry was made in response to an article published by the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Guardian US that revealed as many as one-third of all Superfund sites could be causing more harm than good.

The report traced toxic waste from a Superfund site in Silicon Valley to a variety of destinations in Oklahoma and Arizona, where it was treated and burned, oftentimes discharging waste or creating even more harmful chemicals.

In a letter to the EPA, Eshoo asked if congressional action is necessary to give the agency the authority it needs to sufficiently monitor and control toxic pollutants. She also asked if the agency has examined alternatives to the current methods being used to treat hazardous waste sites, in particular contaminated groundwater.

EPA released a report last year that Google employees were exposed to high levels of a cancer-causing chemical at the company’s satellite campus on a Superfund toxic waste site.  After workers disabled part of the air ventilation system at an office complex in Mountain View, Calif., levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) in two Google office buildings exceeded concentrations deemed safe by the EPA.

Google does not manufacture chips with TCE. When computer chip manufacturers such as Intel, Fairchild Semiconductor and Raytheon occupied the site in the 1960s and ’70s, large quantities of contaminants leaked or were dumped. TCE was discovered in the soil and groundwater under the three companies’ plants in 1981. Since 1989, more than 100,000 pounds of contaminants have been removed from the groundwater.

Photo: Shutterstock

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