EPA Announces Plans to Accelerate Cleanup of Superfund Projects in Tennessee
Nationally, EPA announces plans to use first $1B from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funds to clear out the Superfund backlog
ATLANTA (Dec. 17, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to accelerate the cleanup of three Superfund sites in Tennessee with funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Nationally, a $1 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to initiate cleanup and to clear the backlog of 49 previously unfunded Superfund sites and accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country. Until this historic investment, many of these were part of a backlog of hazardous waste sites awaiting funding.
“This work is just the beginning; with more than 1 in 4 Black and Hispanic Americans living within 3 miles of a Superfund site, EPA is working to serve people that have been left behind,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Approximately 60 percent of the sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects are in historically underserved communities. Communities living near many of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination will finally get the protections they deserve.”
“We want to make these communities whole again, and residents should feel a sense of peace in the place where they raise their families. EPA is committed to supporting local communities by cleaning up contaminated sites and returning the land to productive use,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “This infrastructure funding will accelerate cleanups for sites that have languished for far too long while promoting potential redevelopment and economic opportunities.”
“I am pleased that the infrastructure law will fund this Superfund cleanup project in Memphis at the former Custom Cleaners site on Southern Avenue. We worked to pass these funds into law to supercharge the Superfund program to address the large backlog of unfunded toxic Superfund clean-up projects and protect communities from exposure to toxic chemicals,” said U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09). “In Memphis, we know that the former facility used tetrachloroethylene (PCE) as a dry-cleaning solvent. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation indicates elevated levels of the toxin PCE are in the subsurface soils and in the groundwater so the threat it poses must be mitigated.”
Superfund cleanup projects in Tennessee include:
- Former Custom Cleaners, Memphis – The site was listed on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 2017 because of soil, indoor air and groundwater contamination resulting from facility operations.
- Smokey Mountain Smelters, Knoxville – The site was listed on the NPL in 2010 because of contaminated soils, sediment and surface water resulting from past industrial operations at the site.
- Walker Machine Products, Inc., Collierville - The site was listed on the NPL in 2014 because of solvent spills and leaks contaminating the subsurface soil and groundwater in areas beneath the site.
The $1 billion investment is the first wave of funding from the $3.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help cleanup polluted Superfund sites in communities. The backlog of previously unfunded sites that will now be receiving funding are in 24 states and territories and all 10 EPA regions, including some communities who have been waiting for cleanup for more than four years.
EPA is committed to carrying out this work in line with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative by advancing environmental justice and incorporating equity considerations into all aspects of the Superfund cleanup process. This will help ensure that historic and ongoing impacts of contamination on overburdened communities are fully considered and addressed.
Administrator Regan visited the Lower Darby Creek Area site in Pennsylvania, one of the many sites with ongoing work that will receive a boost from the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding. Along with new construction projects, infrastructure funds will be used to accelerate ongoing work and begin cleanup at additional Superfund sites in various stages of pre-construction and planning throughout the country.
These Superfund cleanup projects will make a visible and lasting difference in communities. In one Florida community, residents have been advocating for removal of creosote-contaminated soil in their neighborhood for years. At a New York site, lead contaminated soil will be removed from people’s backyards. At a site in New Mexico, EPA will address the source area of a contaminated groundwater plume migrating towards a community.
The funds will supercharge the Superfund program to address the toll contaminated sites have on communities. EPA is finalizing cleanup plans and preparing funding mechanisms to get construction work started as soon as possible. More information about funding for backlogged sites and accelerated cleanup sites will be available in the coming weeks.
In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as Superfund, was passed. The novel law gave EPA the authority and funds to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up the most contaminated sites across the country. When no viable responsible party is found or cannot afford the cleanup, funds appropriated by Congress are used. A tax on chemical and petroleum industries provided funds to the Superfund Trust fund for Superfund cleanups up until 1995. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reinstates the chemical excise taxes and invests an additional $3.5 billion in environmental remediation at Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities and neighborhoods.
For more information and to see a list of the 49 sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-sites-new-construction-projects-receive-bipartisan-infrastructure-law-funding
For more information about EPA’s Superfund program, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund