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Getting involved in the Superfund cleanup process, P.1

Last week, we spoke about an EPA proposal to perform cleanup at a contaminated site north of Brunswick. Although the 700-acre site is heavily polluted with mercury, dioxins and PCBs, the EPA has proposed a rather minimalist cleanup plan that includes removing seven acres of marshland and covering up an additional 18 acres.

The EPA, which apparently came up with the plan 20 years after the contamination was discovered, has been criticized for doing too little. Not surprisingly, the company responsible for funding the cleanup, Honeywell, has voiced support of the plan and has criticized those calling for more extensive cleanup. All of this begs the question: what is the process for planning out the cleanup of a contaminated site, and who exactly decides what goes into a cleanup plan?

The Superfund cleanup process involves numerous steps overseen by EPA authorities. After a contaminated site has been discovered and inventoried, the EPA investigates the site to determine whether an immediate or short-term cleanup is needed. Once any emergency issues are addressed, the site is investigated further to determine the extent of the contamination, what options are available for removing the contamination and the likely outcomes of the alternatives, as well as the costs of cleanup. After a plan of action has been considered and approved, the next major step is to implement the plan.

These decisions in the cleanup process are, of course, made by the EPA, but interested parties are able to engage with the EPA at any point in the cleanup process to provide input and advocate for community interests. In our next post, we’ll speak a bit about community involvement in the Superfund cleanup process and the importance of citizens voicing their opinions with respect to projects that impact them.

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