Sierra Club
JULY 27, 2004
10:18 AM
CONTACT:  Sierra Club
Annie E. Strickler (202) 675-2384
New Superfund Report Details Health Threats at Toxic Waste Sites: Bush Administration’s Failure to Support “Polluter Pays” Principle Endangers Americans’ Health

WASHINGTON - July 27 - The Bush administration’s failure to protect Americans’ health from toxic waste pollution is documented in a new Superfund report released today by the Sierra Club. The report, “Communities at Risk: How the Bush Administration is Failing to Protect People’s Health at Superfund Sites,” breaks down state-by-state the Superfund sites across the country where human exposure to toxic pollution and groundwater pollution is not under control and where health and water data are insufficient .

To download the report, please visit:

**There will be a press teleconference today at 1 p.m. eastern to brief members of the media on the report and field questions. For details, please call (202) 675-2384 or email

“This report makes clear that Superfund sites are toxic threats to Americans’ health and that the Bush administration is failing to address this problem,” said Ed Hopkins, Environmental Quality program director with the Sierra Club and the report’s author. “With one in every four Americans, including 10 million children, living within a few miles of a toxic waste site, the Bush administration must ensure that we adequately fund the cleanup of the worst toxic sites.”

The report, based on Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent performance indicator data for the Superfund program, finds that human exposure to health-threatening chemicals is not under control at 111 Superfund sites. The states with the most Superfund sites where human exposure is not under control are California (9), Illinois (9), Montana (8), Pennsylvania (7), Florida (6), New York (6), and New Jersey (5). Further, migration of groundwater pollution is not under control at 251 Superfund sites. The states with the most Superfund sites where migration of groundwater pollution is not under control are California (25), New Jersey (22), New York (20), Florida (17), Pennsylvania (17), Michigan (11) and Illinois (10). Almost all of these sites are funded in whole or part by the Superfund trust fund, now empty of polluter-pays funds. At hundreds of other sites, the EPA lacks sufficient data to determine if human exposure and migration of groundwater pollution are under control.

“Without an effective funding mechanism for Superfund cleanups, dangerous chemicals will continue to seep into our air, water, and soil,” said Hopkins.

From Superfund’s beginning in 1980, every administration collected or supported collecting taxes on oil, certain chemicals and other substances that are found frequently at Superfund sites and, since1986, an environmental corporate income tax. The Superfund trust fund established a vital, stable source of funding without financially burdening ordinary taxpayers. The lesson: Superfund works. By June 2004, the program had cleared up nearly 900 of the nation’s most contaminated sites. However, the polluter pays taxes sunset in 1995, and the trust fund ran out of polluter-contributed funds last fall. The current Bush administration is the first to oppose the polluter-pays principle.

“Americans are paying twice: once with their health and again with their taxes,” said Hopkins. “There is a better way. The Bush administration could help solve these health threats and tax burden by supporting the polluter-pays principle to recreate a stable funding source for the Superfund program.”

Last week, the Bush administration added nine new sites to the Superfund National Priority List even though there were 11 sites proposed this spring. However, it is unclear where the added funds needed to cleanup these new sites will be found. Until the polluter-pays principle is restored, the federal Superfund program must compete for funding with clean air, water and other important priority environmental programs during times of serious budget deficits. With Superfund’s underfunding, cleanup has slowed.

“Underfunding cleanup of America’s toxic waste sites is yet another example of corporations trumping public health and safety under the Bush Administration’s watch,” said Hopkins. “We teach our children that they are responsible for cleaning up the messes that they make, and the Bush administration should demand the same of corporate polluters.”

Reinstating the Superfund polluter-pays taxes would generate more than $14 billion over the next 10 years, which meets the low estimate of cleanup costs for the next decade, according a Congressionally-requested report by Resources for the Future.