EPA Adds 12 Sites to the National Priorities List (NPL)
On September 29, 2003 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that 12 sites have been added to the Superfund program's National Priorities List (NPL). Since 1982, the NPL has served as a tool that guides EPA in determining which contaminated sites pose the greatest threat to human health and the environment. Other factors that EPA considers when listing sites include the level of state, local government, and community support for adding the site to the NPL; the need to promote a strong enforcement program; and the ability to leverage other cleanup resources. Among the sites listed today are the Newton County Mine Tailings property in Missouri and the Conroe Creosoting Company in Texas.
EPA is adding the Newton County Mine Tailings site to the NPL because high concentrations of lead and cadmium were detected in residential drinking water wells and soil, posing a health threat to the surrounding community. For over a century, lead, cadmium, and zinc mining were major industries in Newton County, part of southwest Missouri's Tri-State Mining District. Extensive mining activity in the region created underground channels and faults exposing groundwater to lead, cadmium, and zinc ores. When ingested in large quantities, these metals can cause health problems. Even though the last mines shut down in the 1950s, the surrounding countryside is still dotted with open mine shafts and tailings piles.
The Conroe Creosoting Company in Conroe, Texas, also was listed because of the threat it poses to residents, as well as nearby wetlands and rivers. The site is contaminated with elevated levels of pentachlorophenol (PCP), dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and metals. The property has been flooded three times since 1994, sending contaminated water into nearby homes and yards.
For more than two decades, the Superfund program has been working to reduce serious threats to human health and the environment by cleaning up hazardous waste sites across the country. The Superfund law mandates that EPA identify and place on the NPL those sites that present the greatest threats to the public. A recent, independent review commissioned by the U.S. Congress projects the continued identification and need for listing of such sites well into the future. The publisher of this review, Resources for the Future, estimates that between 23 and 49 sites will be added to the NPL each year through 2009. The total estimated cost to EPA of implementing the Superfund program from fiscal year 2000 through fiscal year 2009 ranges from $14 billion to $16.4 billion. Currently, there are construction cleanup projects underway at more than 380 sites nationally. Approximately 57 percent of the sites on the Superfund NPL have completed construction.