Pruitt Seeks Quicker Superfund Cleanups at Three Targeted Sites (1)

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By Sylvia Carignan and Stephen Joyce

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt put the spotlight on three more Superfund sites to accelerate cleanup efforts after the agency targeted those sites for a lack of progress.

The Environmental Protection Agency named the sites in California, Delaware, and Minnesota April 16 after the agency’s regional staff said they needed a push from the administrator, Albert “Kell” Kelly, Pruitt’s senior adviser on Superfund issues, told Bloomberg Environment.

Kelly expects that push to come in the form of an expedited cleanup plan decision or quicker negotiations for each of the sites.

Pruitt also removed two sites from the list of those needing immediate action.

The sites EPA added to the list are Delaware Sand and Gravel Landfill in New Castle, Del., Casmalia Resources in Casmalia, Calif., and St. Regis Paper Co. in Cass Lake, Minn.

Kelly said hard and fast criteria aren’t necessarily used when adding sites to the administrator’s list.

“The criteria has some subjectivity to it, because it has to be sites [where] regions believe attention from the administrator will help them get to whatever milestone,” Kelly said.

Cass Lake, Minn

Pruitt aims to finalize a residential soil cleanup plan for the St. Regis Paper Co. site.

Remediating the Minnesota site “has been a very long and difficult process,” Sara Peterson, a lawyer representing Cass Lake, Minn., the city where the property is located, told Bloomberg Environment.

The site contains soils and groundwater possibly contaminated by dioxins, pentachlorophenol, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, according to an EPA fact sheet on the site.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, Champion Paper Co.—a predecessor company to the site’s current owner, Memphis, Tenn.-based International Paper Co.—manufactured treated wood for railroad ties and telephone poles.

Thomas Ryan, a spokesperson for International Paper, told Bloomberg Environment the company is working with the EPA and other parties at the Superfund site.

The city is anxious for the site’s environmental cleanup to be completed, Peterson said.

“They need the jobs that would come with the redevelopment of this site, and they’ve got some potential opportunities out there. But having a Superfund site there at this point makes it awfully hard to market the site,” she said.

A March 2016 EPA-proposed plan recommended removing contaminated soil from affected residential areas and replacing it with clean soil, managing removed soil on site, disposing of a small amount of heavily contaminated soil at an off-site facility, and monitoring soil stored on site.

Casmalia, Calif

The Casmalia Resources site in California was a commercial hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility spanning more than 250 acres.

The EPA finalized a $590,722 settlement in November with 57 of the companies that contributed waste to the landfill. Those companies include Nestle, Leidos Inc., Hubbell Inc., and Hearst Corp.

None of those companies responded to Bloomberg Environment’s emails or calls about the site’s addition to Pruitt’s list.

In addition, companies and government agencies involved with the Delaware site did not respond to Bloomberg Environment’s requests for comment.

Setting Deadlines

The EPA also provided updates April 16 about each of the other sites on Pruitt’s “immediate, intense action” list.

At the Mohawk Tannery site in Nashua, N.H., the agency wants to propose a cleanup plan this summer. The EPA is negotiating an agreement with a prospective purchaser who would redevelop the site.

For two New Jersey sites, American Cyanamid Inc. in Bound Brook and Berry’s Creek in Wood Ridge borough, the agency wants to propose cleanup plans by the end of this spring.

The agency also wants to propose a cleanup plan for the Superfund site in East Chicago, Ind. his summer. The EPA is working on cleaning up lead-contaminated soil at parts of the site.

Delisted Sites

Pruitt already has made major cleanup decisions at the two sites removed from the list, the Anaconda Copper Mine in Yerington, Nev., and San Jacinto River Waste Pits outside Houston.

The EPA agreed in February to allow Nevada to oversee the cleanup of the Anaconda site, owned by Atlantic Richfield Co., after the state sought to assume control and work with private parties for a quicker resolution.

The former mine site had been under consideration to be added to the EPA National Priorities List so it could qualify for long-term cleanup and federal funding. The state last year asked the agency to defer the mine listing except for areas on tribal lands.

The San Jacinto River Waste Pits site contains paper mill waste material, including highly toxic dioxins, generated in the bleaching of wood pulp to make paper, the EPA said.

Pruitt announced a $115 million plan in October for the pits that entails excavating more than 212,000 cubic yards of contaminated waste.

Superfund sites are the most contaminated in the country, and include the Gowanus Canal in New York, Portland Harbor in Oregon, and Tar Creek in Oklahoma. Properties with EPA’s Superfund designation are eligible to receive federal funds for cleanup, though the agency aims to compel companies responsible for the sites to pay the cleanup bills.

With assistance from Susan Bruninga and Leslie A. Pappas.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at scarignan@bloombergenvironment.com, and Stephen Joyce in Chicago at sjoyce@bloomberglaw.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bloombergenvironment.com

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