EPA wants to ‘prioritize’ Superfund cleanups

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt stated in a memo to EPA staffers this week Superfund cleanup efforts “will be restored to their rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.” He also intends to be more involved in approving remediation efforts throughout the country, predominantly on the largest cleanups, which cost an estimated $50 million or more.

“We will be more hands-on to ensure proper oversight and attention to the Superfund program at the highest levels of the agency, and to create consistency across states,” Pruitt said in a statement on May 10.

The EPA administrator has always had top authority over Superfund site decisions, but the memo said that until recently “this authority had been delegated many layers into the bureaucracy, resulting in confusion among stakeholders and delayed revitalization efforts. Putting the decision of how to clean up the sites directly into the hands of the administrator will help revitalize contaminated sites faster.

More than 1,300 Superfund sites around the country are included on the EPA’s “National Priorities List.” It can take years or decades to complete cleanup. Some have criticized the slow pace of cleanups while proponents contend inadequate funding has led to delays.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget would limit that funding for fiscal year 2018, cutting the Superfund program by nearly a third to $330 million a year. The EPA’s budget would decrease by 31 percent.

NGWA members who work in groundwater remediation could benefit from the EPA’s prioritization of Superfund sites.

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