Superfund Sites and National Disasters

What is a Superfund Site?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a Superfund refers to a place that toxic waste was dumped, left alone or generally disposed of improperly. In 1980 congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act as a response to national outrage when citizens found out about the health risks that are associated with unregulated dump sites. The act raises money to clean up these sites as well as hold the companies responsible for dumping those toxins accountable.

When a toxic waste dump is added to the Superfund list, the clean up does not start immediately. Most sites spend more than 10 years on the list before clean up is even started. Once the process of removing the waste has begins, the process takes years and large amounts of money to complete. This interactive map created by National Geographic allows you to see what Superfund sites are near you, how long they have been on this list and where they are in the process.

Superfunds and Natural Disasters

Environmental scientists have to be concerned with the how the Superfund site is affecting things like soil and groundwater toxicity. When natural disasters hit near those sites, there is an added concern that the extreme weather can disrupt any attempt to control the damage that the chemicals can cause.

For example, Hurricane Florence that hit the Carolinas in September had a possible nine different Superfund sites in her path. Chemicals can leak out of these sites when they flood and that can pose immediate danger to drinking water in those areas. These issues can add to the already sky-high clean up bill associated with the sites. This Huffington Post article goes into detail about the issues that arose when Hurricane Florence hit.

This concern is becoming increasingly important because we are seeing the results of climate change manifest as more frequent natural disasters. These occurrences can add even more harmful chemicals to the air and worsen the air pollution. The EPA is still receiving money to continue the Superfund clean up efforts by the Trump Administration for the 2019 fiscal year, so the clean up is still on track to continue. 

 

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