Superfund cleanups provide environmental and health benefits to the area and people living and working near the site. These “green” cleanup activities also translate to economic benefits for site owners and the surrounding businesses — good news considering the EPA wants to add more than a dozen sites to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List.
Last week the agency said it is adding 10 and proposing to add eight hazardous waste sites to Superfund list. These sites have contamination from a variety of sources, including manufacturing, mining, battery recycling and dry cleaning.
“The sites on the [National Priorities List] pose the highest risk to the environment and public health,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, in a statement. “By cleaning up these sites, not only are we benefitting the health of our people and our ecosystems, in many cases, we are benefitting local economies. Many Superfund sites can be safely redeveloped, providing communities with new revenue streams.”
When the EPA cleans up a site or a portion of a site, it frequently returns to beneficial uses. More than 850 Superfund sites nationwide have some type of actual or planned reuse underway.
For example, the Coalinga Asbestos Mine in Coalinga, California, is home to 33 businesses that employ more than 450 people, providing annual employment income of about $16.3 million. Two new residential developments are also located there, providing housing in a rapidly growing community.
Cleanups also increase tax revenue and create jobs during and after cleanup. The EPA reviewed 454 Superfund sites supporting use or reuse activities. It found at the end of fiscal year 2015 that these sites had about 3,900 businesses with 108,000 employees and annual sales of more than $29 billion.
Similarly, a study on property values close to brownfield sites in Youngstown, Ohio, found that cleaning up the contaminated resulted in an increase in the selling price of nearby properties by 18 percent over a five-year period. The study also found that the property values adjacent to brownfield sites that had not been remediated were 66 percent lower than properties one mile away.
Last month the EPA issued guidance on Consideration of Greener Cleanup Activities in the Superfund Cleanup Process. It followed an updated version of ASTM International’s Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups, which the EPA helped develop. The standard reflects EPA’s Greener Cleanup Principles, including the goal of minimizing water use and impacts to water resources, and the agency encourages its use at cleanup sites.