EPA secrecy about sites’ toxic dangers extends even to senators’ inquiries
Scattered across the country, from New Jersey to California, are 114 toxic waste sites where the federal government has determined that the threat to humans from dangerous and sometimes carcinogenic substances is “not under control.”
More than 25 million people live within 10 miles of these sites, according to a review of U.S. Census data of the 2000 population and more than 100 schools are located within one mile, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of government records show.According to the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees cleanup of the sites, hazardous chemicals and toxins there are poisoning the soil, water or air — or all three.
Yet, the EPA has resisted releasing information about cleanup plans or the sites’ danger to the public other than offering a list of the sites’ locations and a brief description about how people might become exposed — information buried so deep in the EPA’s Web site that it is difficult to find.
The sites are considered “not under control” by the EPA because the materials contaminating them could reach and harm people. Exposure to some of these toxins and hazardous chemicals has been linked to various forms of cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease and has stunted mental development in children.The 114 sites are among 1,623 dangerously toxic areas currently or formerly included or proposed for action by Superfund, a law passed in 1980 to identify and supervise the cleanup of America’s most toxic and polluted areas.
Information that the EPA has been reluctant to release includes:
A ranking of which sites are the most dangerous
Plans for addressing the health threat at the sites
A timetable for cleaning up each site
Funding needs for each cleanup
Whether the EPA is investigating 181 more sites throughout the country for which the agency says it has “insufficient data” to determine whether they pose uncontrolled risks for humans