Energy & Environment

EPA directing $1 billion in infrastructure money to Superfund sites

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that it will put the first $1 billion in funds from the recently-signed bipartisan infrastructure bill to address the backlog of Superfund cleanup sites.

Forty-nine Superfund sites are currently unfunded, with low-income and non-white communities disproportionately affected by proximity to them. The bill, which President Biden signed in November, includes a total of $3.5 billion for cleanup at such hazardous contamination sites.

Unfunded Superfund sites exist in 17 states and Puerto Rico and span nearly all geographic regions of the country, from a former ore mine in Cape Rosier, Maine, to a one-time industrial site in Miami-Dade County, Fla.

Beneficiaries of the first round of cleanup funding include the former site of American Creosote Works in Pensacola, Fla., where chemicals used to treat telephone poles contaminated soil and groundwater in the area.

Funds will also go to the former site of the Roebling Steel Company in Florence Township, N.J., adjacent to the Delaware River, where sections of the Golden Gate Bridge were manufactured. Waste disposal contaminated local soil, sediment and groundwater with substances ranging from arsenic, lead and copper to exposed asbestos.

New Jersey in particular has a disproportionate number of Superfund sites, which recently made headlines when the FBI searched one such site for the remains of vanished Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa in November.

“This work is just the beginning; with more than 1 in 4 Black and Hispanic Americans living within 3 miles of a Superfund site, EPA is working to serve people that have been left behind,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement Friday.

“Approximately 60 percent of the sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects are in historically underserved communities. Communities living near many of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination will finally get the protections they deserve,” he added.

The Superfund cleanup backlog grew under the Trump administration, according to a 2020 investigation by The Associated Press, which found the number of unfunded sites nearly tripled from those of the Obama presidency.

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