Community leaders travel to D.C. to demand EPA action at Superfund Sites

JACKIE YOUNG, San Jacinto River Coalition

Leaders from communities met with EPA representatives on Tuesday, March 5th, at EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to push for action at their Superfund sites.

“We need action in our communities where people are sick and dying because of exposures to chemicals in the environment,” was the resounding cry for help from community leaders.

Jackie Young, executive director of Texas Health and Environment Alliance, discussed the San Jacinto River Waste Pits and Jones Rd Superfund Sites with the agency. “I asked the agency to finalize the Community Involvement Plan for the Waste Pits and to create a Community Health and Safety Plan for the cleanup,” said Young.

The group met with Steven D. Cook, Deputy Assistance Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM), Peter C. Wright, Assistant Administrator of OLEM, James E. Woolford with the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) and other EPA staff. The meeting was organized by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice as part of a commitment from EPA to meet quarterly with communities at risk from Superfund sites.

Relocation of families living among some of the most toxic chemicals was an overarching issue. How can communities trigger relocation as the policy is unclear? Leaders called for a committee or task force to find ways to clarify this section of the law.

Medical monitoring of victims at Superfund sites was another key issue that the law requires but the agency ignores. Testing only children up to six years of age is inadequate. Children live within many of these communities their entire lives. Fifteen-year-old adolescents need testing as well to determine their body burden from living in a poisoned community.

Technical Assistance Grants were also discussed as an overarching issue to simplify the program so that average lay people can complete the process and application rather than hiring a grant writer when families can barely afford food and housing due to their medical bills and economic status.