EPA Announces Plans to Use First $1B from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funds to Clear Out the Superfund Backlog
Puerto Rico Communities will Benefit
NEW YORK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $1 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to initiate cleanup and 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. Thousands of contaminated sites exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. These sites include manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills and mining sites.
“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.”
In Puerto Rico at the Pesticides Warehouse III Superfund Site in Manati, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill funds will be used to remediate the soil. In one phase of work, EPA will be addressing the most heavily contaminated soil by digging it up and treating it using a technology that heats the material so that contaminants can be pulled out and captured before being disposed of in a landfill. The soil that is removed will be replaced with clean soil. In a second phase of work, EPA will require, among other steps, the continued maintenance and monitoring of existing treatment systems that currently provide water to several industries near the site to ensure that the concentrations of contamination do not exceed protective levels.
“With this determination by EPA, the Island continues to take a significant step forward towards the recovery of its groundwater,” said Rafael Machargo Maldonado, Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER). “At the DNER, as well as at EPA, we take care every day to maintain the best possible environmental quality. The cleanup plans for the Manatí Pesticide Warehouse III Superfund Site, endorsed by the DNER, show us the effectiveness of the government’s joint efforts. We see today, again, how the result of these efforts achieves that high purpose.”
The $1 billion investment is the first wave of funding from the $3.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help clean up 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.
“With today’s announcement, help is on the way to communities across the country plagued by the risks of living near a Superfund site. Nowhere is that more true than in my home state of New Jersey, which has the greatest number of Superfund sites in the country,” said Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. “I’m thrilled the bipartisan infrastructure law is being put to immediate use to clean up backlogged sites and give our communities the peace of mind they deserve. Thanks to its partial reinstatement of the Superfund Polluter Pays tax, cleanup sites will have more dedicated funding moving forward, and with the Build Back Better Act’s full reinstatement, unfunded sites could become a thing of the past.”
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. The community near the Lower Darby Creek site has faced long-standing environmental justice issues due to a very long history of flooding, displacement, hazardous waste dumping by local industry and failed government interventions to remedy these plights. Along with new construction projects, infrastructure funds will be used to accelerate ongoing work at sites like this one and begin cleanup at additional Superfund sites in various stages of pre-construction and planning throughout the country.
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.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a once-in-a-generation investment that will create millions of jobs modernizing our infrastructure, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path to win the economic competition for the 21st century.
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