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By James R. Elliott and Scott Frickel
Philadelphia's hip Northern Liberties community is an old working-class neighborhood that has become a model of trendy urban-chic redevelopment. Crowded with renovated row houses, bistros and boutique shops, the area is knit together by a pedestrian mall and a 2-acre community garden, park and playground space called Liberty Lands.
First-time visitors are unlikely to realize they're standing atop a reclaimed Superfund site once occupied by Burk Brothers Tannery, a large plant that employed hundreds of workers between 1855 and 1962. And even longtime residents may not know that the 1.5 square miles of densely settled land around the park contains the highest density of former manufacturing sites in Philadelphia.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that Hurricane Harvey damaged a protective cap at a Superfund site along the San Jacinto River, near Houston, and caused a spike in chemical levels in the water.
Water samples from one of 14 monitoring sites at the San Jacinto waste pits indicated levels of dioxin above 70,000 parts per trillion, more than 2,000 times higher than the site's cleanup goal of 30 parts per trillion. Dioxin is a cancer-causing chemical that stays in the environment for hundreds of years before breaking down.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directly attacked the Associated Press this weekend for accurate reporting around Houston's toxic cleanup.
An AP exclusive posted Saturday reported that AP reporters had been able to access seven flooded Superfund sites in the Houston area, despite the EPA's claims that several of the sites were inaccessible to agency personnel.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named 10 sites to the Superfund program's National Priorities List, reaching nine states plus Puerto Rico.
Leading the list is the Bonita Peak Mining District in Colorado, where the EPA by accident spilled 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater from the abandoned Gold King Mine into the scenic Animas River. The river turned bright orange due to heavy metals in the spill, which included lead, iron and aluminum. The disaster has already cost $29 million for initial response and ongoing water-quality monitoring. About 880,000 pounds of metals were released into the Animas River according to EPA estimates.
The disaster affected drinking water and irrigation water for farms in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Flowing downstream from the mine in scenic Silverton, Colorado, at an elevation of 9,300 feet, the hazardous flow also contaminated the San Juan River in New Mexico and caused the Navajo Nation to declare a state of emergency. They, along with the state of New Mexico, are suing the EPA.
The Gold King Mine accident was an embarrassment for the EPA, as it occurred while they were working on the site and accidentally struck a dam. The area was already under investigation, as its many old, abandoned mines—some of which date to the 19th century—have been leaking hazardous waste for years. The Superfund site designation includes 35 mines, seven tunnels, four tailings sites and two additional study areas. They include sites along tributaries that flow into the Animas River. The cleanup will be complex and could take years or even decades.
A former California gold mine in Amador County was also added to the Superfund list, along with a dormant shipyard in Jennings, Louisiana. In Dutchess County, New York, a portion of Wappinger Creek was designated for cleanup as a result of industrial waste. A closed aluminum plant in Montana, which contaminated the Flathead River with cyanide and other manufacturing byproducts, has also been listed.
In Puerto Rico, groundwater contamination in the town of Dorado has impacted drinking water for 67,000 people with the industrial solvents tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, which can have serious health impacts including damage to the liver and increasing the risk of cancer, states the EPA. It is considered one of the country's most hazardous waste sites.
Another groundwater contamination site in Indiana has also been added to the Superfund list. There, organic solvents have been found in residential drinking wells. Additional sites include the Eldorado Chemical Co. Inc. in Live Oak, Texas; North 25th St. Glass and Zinc in Clarksburg, West Virginia; and Valley Pike VOCs in Riverside, Ohio.
Currently, more than 1,300 sites are on the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List.