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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Superfund 25th Anniversary Report Finds America’s Safety Net is Weakest When Needed Most

Silver Valley Community Resource Center Calls on EPA to keep communities safe from toxins

Contact: Barbara Miller

Silver Valley Community Resource Center

PO Box 362, Kellogg, Idaho 83837

Phone/Fax: 208-784-8891

Kellogg, Idaho. The Silver Valley Community Resource Center joined with over 50 organizations across the country to release the"25th Anniversary of Superfund: America’s Safety Net in Crisis," a national report which finds the program is at its weakest, at a time when it is needed most to respond to the toxic emergencies.

On the 25th anniversary of Superfund, and the upcoming 2nd anniversary on October 1st of Superfund’s depletion by the loss of polluter pays fees, the report finds that the once-robust and successful toxic waste safety net is now in crisis.

Since its creation in 1980, Superfund has cleaned up 936 sites protecting hundreds of communities. EPA has secured over $22 billion from polluters who have funded approximately 70% of the site cleanups (the remaining 30% are cleaned up with Superfund monies).

Since polluter pays fees expired in 1995, and Congress refused to reinstate them, the burden on taxpayers to support the Superfund Trust Fund has increased by 300%. Taxpayers now fully shoulder the burden of the program’s $1.2 billion annual appropriation to clean up abandoned sites. "This unfair situation has occurred since the Bush Administration made a policy decision to give polluters a free ride and pass the bill on to taxpayers," noted Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, a co-author of the report. It is the first and only administration to oppose the reinstatement of polluter pays fees. When the fees expired in 1995, Superfund had a surplus of $3.8 billion—but on October 1, 2003 all industry fee monies were spent shifting the burden totally to taxpayers.

Superfund has a weakened Trust Fund with a decrease in funding of $600 million annually—from $1.8 billion in 1993 to $1.2 in 2004—according to a recent federal report.

Consequently, Superfund cleanups have slowed to a crawl with an approximate 80% reduction in annual site cleanups—from 88 sites in 1997 to just 16 sites cleaned up in 2005. *

The report includes a Superfund Site Profile for every state in the U.S. with community updates describing health problems, including birth defects and cancer.

"The Bunker Hill Superfund site in North Idaho and Eastern Washington was first designated in 1983. Interior of homes and schools have yet to be remediated and there remains a grave concern with all the mine pollution remaining in yards and Coeur d’Alene Lake and river banks of the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane rivers", says Cass Davis, SVCRC Board member. Recently in an order to close the gap of resources being eliminated because of the Bush Administration not replenishing the polluter pays tax, SVCRC has affiliated with a Clear Corps USA a national organization for lead education and outreach. "Superfund is supposed to be our safety net when toxic emergencies occur," said Gibbs. "Now on its 25th anniversary, it is time for Congress to restore the hazardous waste fees on polluting industries. The core principle is that polluters—not taxpayers—should pay to clean up these toxic waste sites. The ailing Superfund is at its weakest when we need it most to quickly respond to the horrific pollution from toxic and oil waste releases and flooded toxic waste sites resulting from Hurricane Katrina."

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[* As of September 14, 2005, 16 sites have been remediated in Fiscal Year 2005, which ends on September 30, 2005