Superfund: On the Hill… on the ground

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

ON THE HILL:

1980

President Carter signs the Superfund bill into law, funded by $1.6 billion from an excise tax on the chemical and petroleum industries. The newly created Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry assesses the health effects of more than 65,000 industrial chemicals.

1982

Congressional investigations reveal widespread corruption; 22 high-ranking EPA officials are fired, and President Reagan's Superfund chief, Rita Lavelle, is jailed for six months.

1986

As the scope and complexity of toxic-waste cleanups skyrocket, Congress increases the tax-fed Superfund goal to $8.5 billion. States must pitch in 10 percent of cleanup costs.

1991

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., leads an investigation of the private contractors working for Superfund and finds that the EPA regularly paid for equipment marked up more than 400 percent.

1991

Congress passes the Pollution Prevention Act, requiring companies to account for all the toxic materials they use.

1993

President Clinton launches the Brownfields Initiative in an effort to "recycle" industrial wastelands and promote them as usable real estate.

1995

Congress, led by Republican House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich, kills the Superfund corporate "polluter tax." Taxpayers pick up about 18 percent of the program's cost.

2000

The EPA celebrates the 20th anniversary of Superfund, touting more than 700 National Priorities List sites cleaned up. Under Clinton, the EPA completed 605 of those sites, an average of about 76 each year.

2001

During President Bush's first year in office, Superfund cleans up only 48 priorities list sites.

2002

With Christine Todd Whitman heading the EPA, Superfund completes only 38 cleanups to date this year.

2002

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson removes Centers for Disease Control pediatrician Michael Wetzman, who argued for more stringent acceptable blood-lead levels in children, and nominates Dr. William Banner, who has questioned whether current lead standards are too strict.

2003

The Superfund trust is predicted to fall to $28 million.

2004

Unless the Superfund "polluter tax" is reinstated, the trust fund will hit rock bottom. Superfund cleanups will be entirely dependent on taxpayer money.

 

ON THE GROUND:

1978

A company that operates a dam holding more than 8 million gallons of toxic waste discharges some of that waste into the Santa Anna River near Riverside, Calif. Children and animals swim in the contaminated water.

1978 Cleanup begins at Love Canal, N.Y., where residents complain of rising health problems in children and a suffocating odor emanating from a chemical dump in their neighborhood.

1980

Superfund program becomes law.

1986

Tests conducted in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin show that residue from mine tailings and giant silver smelters caused sharply elevated levels of lead in local residents, especially children. Part of the Basin is declared a Superfund site, but today, the EPA has put the $359 million cleanup in the hands of a local commission.

1989

Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington becomes a Superfund site after more than 55,000 gallons of radioactive liquid contaminates groundwater and the nearby Columbia River. Managers at the facility report that 60 buried waste tanks are leaking waste that is four times more radioactive than that at Chernobyl.

1993

Thousands of fish die when the Summitville gold mine releases cyanide into the Alamosa River in southwestern Colorado. A few months later, the mine claims bankruptcy, leaving Superfund with a $150 million tab for cleanup, which begins one year later.

1995

After drinking water from the Berkeley Pit at a defunct copper mine in Butte, Mont., 342 snow geese die. Butte becomes home to one of the largest Superfund sites in history.

2001

Dust from a vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont., is blamed for an epidemic of asbestosis, a lung disease responsible for more than 200 deaths in the town. The EPA spends $300 million testing the area, and one year later, adds it to the Superfund list.

2002

Eureka becomes Utah's 21st active site on Superfund's National Priorities List.

High Country News Classifieds
  • NEW AGRARIAN APPRENTICESHIP
    Quivira Coalition's 2020 New Agrarian Apprenticeships in Regenerative Ranching and Farming -Apprenticeships run 4/20 - 11/20 Applications accepted 10/15/19 - 12/1/19 NAP partners with skilled...
  • PHILANTHROPY DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Workshop seeks a full time Philanthropy Director to raise funds for our team. Learn more: www.wildernessworkshop.org
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT WITH WESTERN RESOURCE ADVOCATES
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks an enthusiastic and organized problem solver to join our growing team as an Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is instrumental...
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL
    Two positions: Development Director OR Development Writer, Communications Director. Full job descriptions at https://wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org/careers.
  • CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    Great Land Trust seeks to hire a Conservation Project Manager. Position is full-time, based in Anchorage, Alaska. First review of applications will be on October...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director Position Description Summary of Position: The Executive Director, working with and reporting to the Board of Directors, has overall...
  • FINANCE & LOGISTICS COORDINATOR
    The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, founded in 1928 as an independent nonprofit organization, is a biological field station located near Crested Butte, Colorado. Our primary...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    See Full Job Description
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Position: Development Coordinator Responsible to: Executive Director Time Commitment: 15-20 hours per week, or as otherwise agreed upon General Description: The Development Coordinator assists the...
  • EDUCATION CENTER MANAGER
    Friends of Cedar Mesa seeks a full-time Education Manager for the Bears Ears Education Center to provide day to day operational and administrative oversight. See...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED SCP SOUTHWEST REGIONAL DIRECTOR
    Seeking to hire an experienced advocate/manager to oversee the organization's sportsmen/women-driven advocacy in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Open until filled
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    for northern AZ collaborative conservation ranchlands group
  • AMAZING PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    If you're an amazing Program or Education Manager looking for an exciting and fulfilling position with an organization that makes a difference in the community,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Partners are seeking an experienced and energetic Executive Director who is excited about the opportunity to lead our growing organization! A full description of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country News Seeks an Executive Director to advance its mission, grow its audience and influence, and strategically and sustainably guide the organization through a...
  • 2 PROPERTIES ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Organic farm, hot springs, San Francisco River runs through both. [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • SOCIETY FOR WILDERNESS STEWARDSHIP BOARD MEMBER
    Join the SWS board and help us broaden, diversify, and engage the wilderness community.
  • NEW MEXICO BIRDER'S PARADISE.
    Fully furnished 2B/2B home near Bosque del Apache NWR, great for nature lovers.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.