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EPA Chief Orders Faster Superfund Cleanup Of Nation’s Most Polluted Areas

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is pushing officials to streamline and speedup the Superfund process to cleanup the nation’s most polluted sites, a problem highlighted by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group in 2016.

“I am making it a priority to ensure contaminated sites get cleaned up,” Pruitt said in a statement Wednesday announcing a directive he signed Monday. “We will be more hands-on to ensure proper oversight and attention to the Superfund program at the highest levels of the agency and to create consistency across states.”

The Superfund program is tasked with cleaning sites on the National Priorities List, which are the most contaminated locations in the country. Pruitt’s directive strips lower-ranking EPA officials of the ability to approve cleanups that cost at least $50 million and keeps that authority with the administrator to eliminate red tape.

The EPA administrator has always held the power to approve cleanups, but “had been delegated many layers into the bureaucracy, resulting in confusion among stakeholders and delayed revitalization efforts,” the agency said.

Pruitt’s directive follows multiple reports by TheDCNF last year exposing unexplained cleanup delays that have plagued the Superfund program since its inception, resulting in extremely polluted sites being left contaminated  for years, or even decades. The delays are often the result of complex clean-ups required and numerous bureaucratic hurdles.

More than 1,700 sites have been added to the Superfund program since 1983, but less than 400 have been fully cleaned, TheDCNF previously reported. It took 13 years on average to decontaminate each of those sites. (RELATED: Feds Leave Dangerously Polluted Sites Uncleaned For Decades).

Meanwhile, people living near more than 300 Superfund sites have faced health hazards for years, or sometimes decades. In fact, the EPA doesn’t know if 117 sites endanger humans, despite being part of the Superfund program for more than 30 years. (RELATED: The EPA Stashes BILLIONS In Slush Fund-Like Accounts)

Pollution – including contaminants from military activities – at one uncleaned site near Philadelphia has threatened nearby humans for nearly 50 years, and a surrounding community faced an increased number of cancer cases, a DCNF investigation uncovered. (RELATED: Feds Ignored Contamination For Decades In Poor Neighborhood Superfund Site)

TheDCNF also revealed nearly $6.3 billion collected in the EPA’s 1,300 “special accounts” — slush-fund like bank accounts linked to specific Superfund sites — without oversight from Congress or external review.

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