Twenty-seven years ago, after environmental disasters like Love Canal, the feds created a Superfund program to clean up America's toxic waste dumps. But today, that effort has run out of steam and stands underfunded and largely forgottendespite the fact that nearly half of all Americans live within 10 miles of Superfund sites.
This worrisome bit of news comes from "Wasting Away," the latest investigation out of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity. The center found that fewer than 20 percent of the dumps have been cleaned up enough to be removed from the Environmental Protection Agency's list of worst sites and that the agency recoups only a fraction of what it used to get from polluters to clean up the mess. The center's website includes a handy database of all 1,623 Superfund sites searchable by state and company, complete with maps, contaminants, and population figures.
U.S. Superfund Sites
Source: Center for Public Integrity
The center's staff is known for hard-hitting reports on money in politics, and they've put that expertise to work in their report on Superfund sites. They found that from 1998 to 2005, the companies responsible for this toxic legacy spent over $1 billion lobbying the federal government and doled out more than $120 million to political campaigns. You don't suppose that has anything to do with why this mess is still there, do you?
Disclosure: The Center for Public Integrity sponsors the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which I'm a proud member. ICIJ brings together reporters from around the world to work on projects that have included mercenaries, tobacco smuggling, and water privatization.