The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says in 2018 it deleted 18 full and four partial sites from its Superfund National Priorities List, the largest number of deletions in one year since 2005.
“By renewing and elevating our focus on Superfund under President Trump, we are accelerating cleanups, returning sites to productive reuse, and revitalizing communities across the country,” said EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler.
But the positive trend was absent in Indiana, as the EPA added two new Superfund sites in Spencer and Anderson and is considering adding an additional site in Logansport.
SPENCER’S NEW SUPERFUND SITE
The Franklin Street Groundwater Contamination site in Spencer was first discovered in 2011. In 2014, Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management detected tetrachlorothene, also known as PCE, in the city’s three active municipal wells.
PCE is a chemical used for fabric dry-cleaning, degreasing metal parts and for manufacturing other chemicals. Exposure could affect a person’s nervous and reproductive systems, liver, kidneys and could be harmful to unborn children. Prolonged exposure could also increase the risk for developing certain types of cancer.
Water in one of the wells exceeded the maximum contaminant level of 5 ppb. IDEM investigated and found nine active and former facilities that could be contributing to the contamination, but its exact origin still remains unknown. The state of Indiana referred the site to the EPA, and it was named a Superfund site in May 2018.
ANDERSON’S NEW SUPERFUND SITE
Contamination at the Broadway Street Corridor Groundwater Contamination site in Anderson was found in 1992. In 2011, IDEM found trichloroethene, PCE and dichloroethene in water treated at the city’s treatment plant.
Trichloroethene, also known as TCE, is found in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids and spot removers. The compound is known to be a human carcinogen, with evidence pointing to increased risk for kidney cancer, liver cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Dichloroethene, also known as DCE, is used to make solvents and other chemicals. DCE damaged the lungs, liver and heart of animals in laboratory testing when inhaled and lowered the number of red blood cells in blood when ingested.
Two years later, IDEM also found vinyl chloride, another known carcinogen in the city’s raw water.
IDEM has identified five active and former facilities that could be contributing to the contamination but still has not found the direct origin. The city has been using air strippers to reduce the contaminant levels to below the maximum contaminant levels. The site was named a Superfund site in September 2018.
Contamination at the Cliff Drive Groundwater Contamination site in Logansport was first discovered in 1994. IDEM investigated the drinking water treatment plant operated by Logansport Municipal Utilities and found that four of the city’s five municipal water wells were contaminated with PCE levels above the EPA’s maximum contaminant levels. The affected wells provide the drinking water for nearly 15,000 people. IDEM identified 23 commercial and industrial facilities and about 100 current and former dry cleaners that could be the source of contamination.
In July 2018, IDEM Commissioner Bruno L. Pigott wrote to the EPA requesting that the site be added to the Superfund National Priorities List.
In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.
CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund, gives the EPA the money and authority to clean up contaminated sites across the country and force those responsible for the contamination to clean it up or reimburse the government for cleanup.
The law authorizes short-term responses where quick action is required to prevent or stop releases.
CERCLA also allows long-term remedial response actions where contamination is serious, but not immediately life-threatening. The EPA can engage in long-term response only at sites listed on the EPA’s National Priorities List.
Once a site is added to the list, the Superfund site can be deleted from the list “when no further response is appropriate,” or if the EPA determines that polluters have done all they were required to do by law and that there is no “significant threat” to public health or the environment.
Ten sites in Indiana have been deleted from the National Priorities List since CERCLA was enacted.