WASHINGTON, April 26, 2007 — Toxic waste still plagues American communities 27 years after the U.S. government created a program to identify and clean up the country's worst sites, according to a two-part investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. "Wasting Away: Superfund's Toxic Legacy" reveals the beleaguered state of the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund effort, uncovers the companies and government agencies linked to the most sites and tracks progress of the cleanup.
The Center's top overall findings:
- Nearly half of all Americans live within 10 miles of the 1,304 active and proposed Superfund sites listed by the EPA.
- Since the program started in 1980, fewer than one out of five sites has been cleaned up enough to be removed from the listing of the worst toxic waste sites.
- The amount of money EPA recouped from polluters annually to pay for cleanups plummeted from $320 million in 1999 to $60 million in 2006.
- EPA's 2007 target for "construction complete" sites – with systems in place to begin cleanup – was 40, but has been scaled back to 24. The 2008 target is 30 sites, according to the EPA's 2008 budget.
The Center's analysis of a confidential EPA document listing the nearly 100 companies connected to more than 40 percent of America's most dangerously contaminated sites found that since Superfund's creation in 1980, less than one out of five of these 700 sites have been adequately cleaned up and removed from the list. Between 1998 and 2005, the responsible companies disclosed spending more than $1 billion to lobby the federal government and also contributed more than $120 million to federal campaigns.
The "Wasting Away" Web site features an interactive list of all 1,623 Superfund sites – active, proposed and deleted – searchable by company and state, detailing location, status, size, types of contaminants and nearby population. The search list includes EPA contractors paid to clean up Superfund sites, privately sponsored travel taken by EPA officials and more than 10,000 searchable pieces of correspondence among members of Congress, their staff, committees and EPA officials.
As part of this series, the Center will release additional stories examining the human exposure to the most dangerous Superfund locations, companies that avoided clean-up costs by declaring bankruptcy and a look at EPA contractors.
"Wasting Away" was made possible through grants from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund.
For more information or interviews contact:
Media Relations Coordinator
Center for Public Integrity
(202) 481-1225 (office)
The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based organization that does investigative reporting and research on public policy issues. Since 1990, the Center has released more than 300 investigative reports and 15 books. It has received the prestigious George Polk Award and more than 20 other journalism awards and 16 finalist nominations from national organizations, including PEN USA and Investigative Reporters and Editors. In April 2006, the Society of Professional Journalists recognized the Center with a national award for excellence in online public service journalism for the fifth consecutive year. In October 2006, the Center also was honored with the Online News Association's coveted General Excellence award.