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What They Are Saying: EPA Takes Action to Guide Health and Safety Decisions at Cleanup Sites During the COVID-19 Pandemic

04/10/2020
Contact Information: 
EPA Press Office (press@epa.gov)

WASHINGTON (April 10, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued interim guidance to the Agency’s regional offices to ensure that decisions about new or ongoing cleanup activities at sites across the country are made with the health and safety of communities, state and tribal partners, EPA staff, and contractors as the priority. Here's what stakeholders and public officials are saying:

Association of State and Territorial Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO): “ASTSWMO's membership supports EPA working closely with their State and Territorial partners to ensure human health and the environment are protected during this current situation.  That is best done jointly, working together to determine the best course of action under this guidance for decision-making at all cleanup sites potentially affected by the current COVID-19 precautions”

Bobby Janecka, Commissioner, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: “I am pleased by EPA’s commitment to continue vital cleanup work at Superfund sites while supporting appropriate social distancing measures. Communities across our state will be grateful to see EPA thoughtfully continuing needed remediation work at sites such as the Donna Reservoir and Canal Federal Superfund site in South Texas.”

Jim Macy, Director, Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy: “We appreciate and support our federal partners in their efforts to implement cleanup activity guidance during this difficult time. The guidance allows us to remain committed to our mission to protect and improve human health, the environment, and energy resources while supporting the State of Nebraska in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Scott Thompson, Executive Director, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality: “This guidance reflects what is already occurring within programs. Each remediation site that EPA and states deal with presents unique challenges, and many routinely require site-specific determinations. The current COVID-19 event poses additional challenges, and most if not all states have prioritized critical actions over less critical ones in all programs at this point. Clearly EPA and state agencies will do whatever it takes during this time to respond to natural disasters or emergencies involving remediation sites while trying to maintain social distancing.”

Austin Caperton, Cabinet Secretary, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection: “West Virginia had already taken steps to protect our citizens and is well positioned to accommodate EPA’s guidance during this crisis. The past few weeks have proven our ability to continue moving all DEP processes forward to protect the environment and our people.”

Gerry Geist, Executive Director, Association of Towns of the State of New York: “Town officials care about protecting the environment and public health while ensuring the personal health and safety of individuals working to clean up contaminated property. The EPA interim guidance issued today will help EPA Region 2 evaluate whether to begin, continue or secure and suspend site remediation work on environmental cleanup projects while protecting the personal health of workers and the community health of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Jeff Grove, Mayor of LaSalle, Illinois: “I wanted to take the opportunity to appreciate the partnership we, at the City of La Salle, have with the EPA. From day one, there has been open and transparent communication among the EPA, city leadership and our La Salle residents. We understand and support the decision to postpone design sampling in the residential areas of the site indefinitely, as we all work to follow safety guidelines and ‘shelter in place’ mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our La Salle residents have been understanding and flexible with other adjustments we have had to make for City services. The bottom line is that we are all confident that the work the EPA has started will eventually continue when life returns to a sense of normalcy. We all appreciate that!”

Brian Sorochty, Mayor of Village of Holley, New York: “While this project is extremely important to the Village of Holley residents, we understand and support the EPA’s decision to place this project temporarily on hold. In light of the nationwide situation with the COVID-19 virus, the health and welfare of the EPA/USACOE personnel, contractors, and our residents must be the top priority. We look forward to this work commencing as soon as possible, based on recommendations from the state and local health officials and the CDC.”

Libby Szabo, Jefferson County Commissioner, Colorado: “It is always a good idea to pause and take a look at what we are doing and how we are doing it, especially in this time of uncertainty. I applaud the EPA for recognizing this and what they are doing to keep our communities safe and strong.”

Karen Sullivan, Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer, Montana: “Recognition by the EPA of the severity of the COVID-19 crisis and its potential impact on EPA staff, the stakeholders at our various Superfund sites in Butte-Silver Bow, and members of our community is greatly appreciated by me. Our collective health and safety is paramount, and EPA's contribution to helping us manage this event in Butte-Silver Bow is welcomed.”

Robert D. Moore, Director, Portsmouth Economic Development: “Continuing work at the Atlantic Wood Industries Superfund Site is vital to the Portsmouth small business community for a number of reasons and we are grateful for the EPA’s continued support of the remediation efforts. It is important to maintain standards on the site throughout these unprecedented times, and the ongoing daily operations allow for workers throughout our economy to stay active and engaged. The project site is also a key location for redevelopment which will become even more necessary as we look into the recovery period.”