The Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed adding another 11 sites to its Superfund program for cleaning up the nation's worst toxic waste contamination. Environmental groups, however, were not ready to pat the administration on the back, charging instead that more should have been done.
The proposed sites range from lead mine wastes threatening downstream fisheries to an unknown source of drinking well contamination for thousands of people. They are located in nine states—Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia—and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
EPA officials say the problems found at these sites exemplify a recent trend in the program of handling bigger, costlier and more complex cleanups. “They are the worst of the worst, the real turkeys that the states don't want to touch,” says Randolph Dietz, an attorney adviser for EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, which oversees the Superfund program.
Environmentalists, however, aren't convinced. “The Bush administration has quashed the importance of this announcement by refusing to support the polluter-pays principle,” says Sierra Club director Carl Pope, referring to the administration's refusal to ask Congress to renew a cleanup fee on polluting companies.