Talk for Article "Report on contaminated water in 1,800 US ‘superfund sites’"

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    Real short responses to the list of questions to investigate:
    1. Sometimes nearby residents are affected to varying degrees, but sometimes not. This is always a point of contention, especially insofar as CERCLA provides for a private right of action for damages.
    2. Sometimes residents know about the problem, again to varying degrees, but sometimes not.
    3. Polluted soil can leach into nearby properties and cause havoc. The problem is compounded when polluted soil leaches into underground aquifers that supply water to communities near and far. Cleanup is especially expensive in these cases.
    4. It’s hard to say what motivates the EPA. But remember this is a political body created by federal statute. I might be wrong about this, but I believe the EPA does not ultimately pay for most of the cleanup of Superfund sites.
    5. In many cases — I’m reluctant to say “most” — dumping of toxic and other waste was innocent. (Naturally, we find that many times this is not the case.) Remember, waste dumping at the sites often goes back for many years. Often waste-dumpers did not know what problems would result, sometimes because waste-dumpers did not know the characteristics of the leaching and contamination from the sites, sometimes because waste-dumpers did not know that some chemicals would cause the problems they do. But in some cases, waste-dumping was clearly illegal and criminal.

    I’m not sure if this is still true, but it used to be that much of the cleanup problem was first identifying the polluters who dumped the waste at a given site. And again, I’m not sure if this is still true, but it used to be under CERCLA that even a small polluter, as measured by the volume of waste dumped at the site, could be liable for cleanup of the entire site. And as to payment for cleanup, much of the fight took place between culpable dumpers and their insurers.

    I’m not sure if I’ve helped the discussion along. But I hope this does shed some light on the questions asked at the bottom of the article.

    – Steve Merican

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Thanks Steve, that’s really helpful.

      Charles is out reporting on this story today.

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