Some of the most highly toxic waste sites in America aren’t being cleaned because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refuses to send staff where they’re needed most, a government watchdog reported Tuesday.
The EPA hasn’t changed how it distributes staff to Superfund sites in 30 years, despite acknowledging that the workloads across its 10 regions have changed, the agency’s Inspector General reported.
“Due to insufficient human resources to cover all Superfund site work, some regions have had to slow down or discontinue their efforts to protect human health and the environment,” the report said. (RELATED: Feds Ignored Contamination For DECADES In Poor Neighborhood Superfund Site)
“Some sites where work has slowed down or been discontinued do not have ‘human exposure under control’ or ‘groundwater migration under control,'” the report continued. “Other impacts include loss of subsistence fishing and human health exposure to chemicals such as lead and mercury. (RELATED: Feds Leave Dangerously Polluted Superfund Sites Uncleaned For DECADES)
Work at 49 Superfund sites in the northwest, for example, has slowed or stopped, and 34 of those lack the necessary staff. Seven of the sites endanger humans.
Additionally, the EPA isn’t sure if humans are threatened at one Montana site with contaminants such as arsenic and lead.
As many as 302 Superfund sites threaten residents of nearby communities, a previous Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found. EPA officials at the time refused to explain why many of those remain contaminated after years or even decades since being added to the program.
The EPA stopped redistributing Superfund staff in 1987 because the agency decided it would cause a “substantial disruption,” the IG report said. Meanwhile, a 2006 EPA analysis found that Superfund staff weren’t distributed across its 10 regions according to need.
“Regions know what resources they need but it is difficult to plan for what they will need because there is no formal process within the budget cycle where workload is taken into consideration,” the report said.
Conducting a new workload analysis – as the IG and the Government Accountability Office have suggested in more than 10 reports since 1996 – would provide the EPA with crucial data.
“The EPA could use the data to better ensure that the most needed cleanup work is funded, and optimize its limited resources to most effectively protect human health and the environment,” the report said.
Redistributing Superfund staff would align with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s “emphasis on cleaning up the country’s worst pollution as expeditiously and as thoroughly as possible,” the report said.
Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman, said the report “underscores why Administrator Pruitt’s work on Superfunds is so important. Administrator Pruitt has changed the focus of EPA, and through his Superfund task force he is ensuring the expertise of EPA staff is fully utilized where needed throughout the country in order to cleanup Superfund sites and protect human health and the environment.”
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