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EPA orders partial excavation of St Louis’ Westlake radioactive site. What about America’s 1343 other toxic superfund sites?

EPA orders cleanup at St. Louis nuclear waste site. What does it mean for the nation’s other toxic messes? WP,  February 1 18,   The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday ordered a long-awaited cleanup of a Superfund site northwest of St. Louis, saying residents living near the landfill contaminated with World War II-era nuclear waste deserve action after waiting 27 years for federal regulators to issue a decision.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to partially excavate tons of radioactive material from the West Lake Landfill over the next five years — at an expected cost of $236 million to the liable companies — goes beyond a 2008 solution proposed by the George W. Bush administration to cover and monitor the waste…….

Thursday’s announcement also was intended to be Exhibit A in demonstrating Pruitt’s commitment to revitalizing the agency’s Superfund program, which includes the nation’s most polluted sites, by streamlining and accelerating cleanups. But it underscored how few Superfund sites have simple answers, though nearly all of them generate intense emotions.

“We were hoping for full, 100 percent excavation. But we know that would be difficult to accomplish,” said Dawn Chapman, a founder of Just Moms STL, an activist group that has long pushed for an extensive excavation with relocation of families near the landfill.

Chapman said her group views the outcome as a hard-fought victory but one that is far from guaranteed, given the public comment and cleanup process likely to unfold over years. “We have to stay here and watch it and see it through,” she said. “I look ahead, and I see these other big battles coming. We’re not going to blink, because you can’t. … We will continue to fight to get even more [radioactive waste] removed.”

……..While the $236 million price tag of the EPA plan is significantly higher than what the firms hoped to spend, it is well below the cost, projected at nearly $700 million, of a full excavation.In a statement, Republic Services said it was “pleased that the EPA has finally ended decades of study and again is issuing a proposed plan for the site.” But the company cautioned that a final decision could take years.

What remains to be seen is whether the decision on West Lake represents how Pruitt is likely to approach other Superfund sites.  In recent months, Pruitt has promised aggressive Superfund cleanups and made a public show of butting heads with corporate interests — something he has rarely done on other issues during his first year at the EPA. Yet aside from creating a list of 21 targets needing “immediate and intense” attention, as well as forming a special task force to recommend ways to expedite cleanups and “reduce the burden” on companies involved, Pruitt has explained very little about how he intends to deal with the hundreds of other toxic waste sites around the country……….

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has proposed cutting the Superfund program’s budget by 30 percent, or about $330 million annually. And while there are responsible companies that the EPA can legally force to pay for cleanups at many of the locations Pruitt has mentioned, many others are “orphan” sites where the polluters have gone bankrupt or are no longer legally liable for remedying the problem. At those, the federal government still shoulders most of the tab — and the pot of available dollars keeps shrinking. ………

Pruitt’s plan will now be open for a period of public comment before it is finalized. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/02/01/epa-orders-cleanup-at-st-louis-nuclear-waste-site-what-does-it-mean-for-the-nations-other-toxic-messes/?utm_term=.8a6b843e7f11

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February 2, 2018 - Posted by | environment, USA, wastes

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