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New report finds EPA risked millions of dollars failing to contain contaminants from superfund sites: 'Causing them to believe that there is no soil contamination'

The incident underscores the ongoing challenges in managing toxic waste sites.

The incident underscores the ongoing challenges in managing toxic waste sites.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has come under scrutiny after spending over $30 million to clean up a contaminated Superfund site in Pensacola, Florida. 

What's happening?

Despite the significant investment, the agency failed to install adequate controls to prevent the spread of dioxin-laden groundwater and soil, raising serious environmental and public health concerns.

According to the Inspector General's report, relayed by Inside Climate News, the agency failed to properly plug wells near the site, leading to the possibility of local property owners pumping contaminated groundwater. 

The Pensacola site, long plagued by industrial pollution, required extensive remediation to address the toxic dioxins present. 

However, local residents and environmental advocates have criticized the EPA's efforts, pointing out that the lack of effective containment measures has allowed the contamination to continue affecting surrounding areas.

The EPA's geographic information system also excluded contaminated parcels, which "could mislead home owners, real estate agents, contractors and state and local agencies that issue building and well permits, 'causing them to believe that there is no soil contamination.'"

Why is this important?

As the Pensacola community awaits further action, the incident underscores the ongoing challenges in managing toxic waste sites and the critical importance of comprehensive planning and implementation in environmental remediation efforts. 

Proper handling of cleanups at Superfund sites by the EPA is crucial because of the significant health, environmental, and economic risks associated with these contaminated locations. 

In this case, the contamination increases the public's exposure to carcinogens. 

The EPA's role in ensuring thorough and effective remediation cannot be overstated, as any lapse in its efforts can result in severe and lasting consequences for both people and the planet. Ensuring rigorous oversight, adequate funding, and adherence to best practices in environmental cleanup is vital for safeguarding the well-being of current and future generations.

What can be done to reduce contamination?

The EPA recently announced a new rule aimed at advancing the goals of this important chemical safety law, ensuring that Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations comprehensively account for the risks associated with a chemical and provide a solid foundation for protecting public health, including workers and communities, from toxic chemicals. 

"Everything we do to protect our nation, including workers and communities, from toxic chemical exposures must be comprehensive and grounded in strong science," said Michal Freedhoff, who is the assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, according to a release from the EPA. 

"This rule charts the path for our risk evaluations to ensure we meet the core objective to protect public health under our nation's premier chemical safety law, which will in turn lead to rules that workers and communities can count on to keep them safe."

Here are some practical steps individuals can take to mitigate the risk...

Proper waste disposal:

Hazardous Waste: Dispose of hazardous household materials, such as batteries, paints, chemicals, and electronics, at designated collection points rather than in regular trash.

Recycling: Recycle items like paper, plastic, glass, and metals to reduce landfill waste and prevent pollution.

Composting: Compost organic waste to reduce the amount of garbage that goes to landfills and enrich soil without chemical fertilizers.

Reducing chemical use:

Eco-friendly Products: Use biodegradable and non-toxic cleaning products, pesticides, and fertilizers to minimize harmful chemical runoff.

• Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Employ IPM techniques in gardening and agriculture to control pests with minimal environmental impact.

We can all play a significant role in preventing the creation of Superfund sites by taking actions that reduce environmental contamination and promote sustainability. 

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