EPA Takes Charge of Ten More Toxic Superfund Sites

WASHINGTON, DC, March 3, 2010 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is adding 10 new hazardous waste sites that pose risks to human health and the environment to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites. The listings makes these sites eligible to receive federal funds for long-term cleanup while the EPA seeks to recover costs from the responsible parties.

In addition to the final sites added on Tuesday, the EPA also is proposing to add eight sites to the list. The list covers priority sites that the EPA investigates to determine if actions are needed to clean up the waste.

Superfund is the federal program that cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country – protecting the health of nearby communities and ecosystems from harmful contaminants.

Currently, there are 1,279 sites on the National Priorities List, including the 10 new sites.

With the proposal of the eight new sites, there are 61 proposed sites awaiting final agency action, for a total of 1,340 final and proposed Superfund sites.

Contaminants found at these sites found include arsenic, benzene, chromium, copper, creosote, cyanide, dichloroethene, lead, mercury, perchloroethene, polychlorinated biphenyls and selenium, among others. These toxics produce a wide range of adverse health effects in humans and wildlife.

These 10 sites have been added to the National Priorities List:

  1. Salt Chuck Mine in Outer Ketchikan County, Alaska: The Salt Chuck Mine is an inactive former gold, silver and copper mine on Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest at the northern end of Kasaan Bay. The Kasaan Tribe of several hundred people uses the bay as a commercial and subsistence fishery and shell fishery. Heavy metals from tailings both in the upland and in the bay are impacting water quality and sediments in the bay and Lake Ellen Creek which drains into the bay, affecting the salmon and shellfish.
  2. JJ Seifert Machine in Ruskin, Florida: The company has operated at the site since 1962, manufacturing electronic components, tools, dies, jigs and fixtures. A paint shed, a drum storage area, and a plating operation formerly existed at the site. The primary source of contamination in the ground water is a former tetrachloroethene vapor degreaser used to clean parts. There are 28 private and community drinking water wells within a one-quarter mile radius of the site. In the latest well sampling conducted in August 2008 volatile organic compounds above EPA safe limits were found in 12 residential wells.
  3. Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp in Jacksonville, Florida: This site covers 31 acres located along the western shoreline of the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville. From 1893 to 1978, Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp operated as a fertilizer and pesticide formulating, packaging, and distributing facility. The site is currently vacant and undeveloped. Site investigations showed volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and metals at concentrations exceeding EPA cleanup target levels in the soils, ground water, and sediments. Offsite migration of contaminants has adversely impacted St. Johns River water quality.
  4. The Chemetco Superfund site is sealed and abandoned (Photo by Nikki Vickrey)
  5. Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp in Navassa, North Carolina: The 300-acre site was used as a creosote-based wood treating facility from the mid-1930s until 1974, generating wastewater which was discharged into ponds on site. Kerr-McGee dismantled the site in 1980. The wastewater ponds were emptied and the remaining sludge was mixed with clean soil and seeded. Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons have been detected in soil and ground water on site and in the sediments of the marsh adjacent to the site.
  6. Chemetco in Madison County, Illinois: Chemetco was a former secondary copper smelter operation which operated from 1969 to 2001 recycling or secondary processing copper-bearing scrap and manufacturing residues. Waste byproducts such as slag, zinc oxide from scrubber sludge, and spent refractory brick were produced on a 41 acre section of the site. On October 31, 2001, the facility was shut down, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on November 13, 2001. On December 7, 2001 the Illinois EPA issued an order to seal Chemetco. Elevated levels of cadmium, copper and lead have been found in the sediments collected from the wetlands and Long Lake downstream of the site.
  7. Lake Calumet Cluster in Chicago, Illinois: Located on the southeast side of Chicago, this 87 acre sites was originally a wetland. Excavation, filling, and dumping activities occurred from the 1940s to the 1980s. The site is covered by as much as 30 feet steel mill slag and industrial, chemical and municipal waste. Contaminants include: arsenic, cadmium, calcium, chromium, copper, cyanide, manganese, zinc, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, acenaphthene, bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, benzene, toluene, polychlorobiphenyls, benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, benzo(a)pyrene.

    Wetlands adjacent to the landfills are known to be used by 14 different federal and state endangered or threatened species. Contaminants from the site are being carried by the surface water to the sediments in Indian Ridge Marsh where people and wildlife fish.

  8. Gratiot County Golf Course in St. Louis, Michigan: From 1956 to 1970, the Michigan Chemical Corp. burned and disposed of industrial and hazardous waste, including the pesticide DDT, on the five acre site. Waste seeped from the site into the Pine River, which is used for recreation. In 1982, Velsicol Chemical Corp., which bought Michigan Chemical, cleaned up the site under state supervision. But the site is being reinvestigated as part of an ongoing state-led study at the Velsicol Chemical Corp. site. Some 2,500 people live within one mile of the site. Six municipal water wells used by about 5,500 people are located within three miles of the site.
  9. The Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, New York (Photo by Gene Ritter)
  10. Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York: The Gowanus Canal is bounded by the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook and empties into New York Harbor. Completed in 1869, the canal was once a major transportation route. Manufactured gas plants, mills, tanneries, and chemical plants operated along the canal. Contamination now affects the 1.8 mile length of the 100-foot wide canal.

    As a result of years of discharges, stormwater runoff, sewer outflows and industrial pollutants, the Gowanus Canal has become one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies. Contaminants include PCBs, coal tar wastes, heavy metals and volatile organics, which endanger nearby residents who use the canal for fishing and recreation.

    “After conducting our own evaluations and consulting extensively with the many people who have expressed interest in the future of the Gowanus Canal and the surrounding area, we have determined that a Superfund designation is the best path to a cleanup of this heavily contaminated and long neglected urban waterway,” said Judith Enck, administrator of EPA Region 2. “We plan to continue our work with the same spirit of inclusion and involvement that has already been demonstrated.”

  11. Black Butte Mine in Cottage Grove, Oregon: Mercury and other contaminants from tailing piles at the abandoned mine site affect creeks that flow into Cottage Grove Reservoir and the Coast Fork of the Willamette River. The Black Butte Mine operated between the 1890s and late 1960s and was one of the largest mercury mines in Oregon.
  12. Van Der Horst USA Corporation in Terrell, Texas: This site, located in a commercial warehouse district, is an inactive chromium and iron plating facility that began operations in the 1950s and operated until December 2006. The facility generated spent kerosene, wastewater treatment sludge, and chromium contaminated wastewater and soil. When the site was abandoned in April 2007, these wastes remained on-site in two underground sumps, 27 vats, and 450 drums. A residential neighborhood lies less than one mile away.

    “Cleaning up contaminated sites in Texas is one of the most visible kinds of projects that demonstrate to the public and our government partners the value that the agency can have,” said Al Armendariz, EPA administrator for Region 6. “We are committed to strengthening our work to clean up and revitalize communities.”

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