Without Superfund Tax, Stimulus Aids Cleanups
VINELAND, N.J. — The Superfund program to clean up the nation’s most contaminated industrial sites was established nearly 30 years ago on the principle that those responsible for toxic pollution should pay for it.
So why is the government spending $600 million in stimulus money to work on sites like the defunct arsenic-fouled Vineland Chemical Company plant here in South Jersey?
Environmental Protection Agency officials and environmentalists say the Superfund program has been chronically underfinanced since a tax that supported it expired in 1995.
What is more, the old Vineland plant, like hundreds of other toxic dumps, is a so-called orphan site, meaning that either no responsible party has been found or money from the original polluter has been exhausted. So the taxpayer is on the hook for the remedial work.
Vineland’s former owners, now deceased, paid $3 million toward a cleanup that began a decade ago and has already cost more than $120 million. The site will get $10 million to $25 million in stimulus money to speed a continuing project to purge arsenic and other chemicals from soil and water on the site's 54 acres.
Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the E.P.A., said the use of stimulus money would accelerate progress at 50 Superfund sites in 28 states, including eight abandoned industrial sites in New Jersey and two on Long Island.
"Under the Recovery Act," Ms. Jackson said, using the formal term for the stimulus package, "we're getting harmful pollutants and dangerous chemicals out of these communities and putting jobs and investment back in."