2007.10.13 – County sites included on Superfund tour

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County sites included on Superfund tour

HOMETOWN – 365 Superfund sites in 365 days.

BY LESLIE RICHARDSON
STAFF WRITER
lrichardson@republicanherald.com
Published: Saturday, October 13, 2007 3:00 AM EDT

HOMETOWN – 365 Superfund sites in 365 days.

That is what Brooke Singer and four others hope to accomplish in a tour that began in September and is expected to conclude in August 2008.

Singer, 35, an assistant professor at State University of New York Purchase and a digital media artist from New York, was in the area Friday revisiting sites in McAdoo, Hometown, Palmerton and Lehighton, sites that have already been featured on the Web site superfund365.org.

“These sites have already been on the Web site,” Singer said Friday. “Sometimes we follow up when there is recent activity or discussion, a lot of action or movement in the area.”

Local sites

The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry said in June it should be ready to share data collected from at least 72 reported cases of a rare blood disease, polycythemia vera, in Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties by late July or early August. But those findings would not include indications of the possible cause of the affliction or other regional health problems or whether some may be related to a former Superfund site, the former McAdoo Associates site, just off Route 309 south of McAdoo.

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter visited the county in September and suggested the information may be released Monday.

Also, there is still cleanup to be done at the Eastern Diversified Metals site, Hometown. In November 2001, after considerable public protest, the EPA announced it would recommend “capping” a 60-foot-high, 3,000-foot-long “fluff pile” at the site that resulted from the disposal of 157 million pounds of plastic waste insulation material, according to EPA records.

Critics and legislators have pushed for removal of the material, which they say presents an ongoing threat to groundwater and public health.

The journey

Singer and the group began the journey in New York City and will end it in Oahu, Hawaii, at the Pearl Harbor Navy Complex.

The federal government enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act in 1980 after increased public demand for safety.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the act, also known as Superfund, “investigates and cleans up the most complex uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country.”

In the 1980s, there were about 500 cases listed on the EPA’s national priority list, according to Singer. Twenty-seven years later, there are more than 1,300 active cases on the list.

Singer and the others use graphics and videos to make the data on these sites more accessible to the public. She hopes the Web site will draw attention to the issue.

“I am a big fan of the Internet,” Singer said. “You can find people and people can find you. I have gotten so much information by receiving Google alerts that have led me to blogs written by people who have concerns with these sites.”

The Web site is set up to highlight a different Superfund site each day.

Visitors to the Web site move their cursors over the page to receive data, including a site’s location and history; a list of chemicals polluting the site; the site’s hazardous ranking compared to other Superfund sites; and how much it’s going to cost to clean it up.

Beginnings

“When I started looking into the Superfund sites, I had no idea what a Superfund site really meant,” Singer said. “I did research, and from the research came this project.”

Singer became interested in Superfund during the aftermath of Sept. 11 in New York City.

“The first week after the World Trade Center attack, officials were talking about turning all of lower Manhattan into a Superfund site,” Singer said. “That is when I started doing the research.”

“As I educated myself, I wanted to educate others about the sheer magnitude of it,” Singer said. “There are many reasons to get involved in this project. For personal reasons, we need to get the word out and help publish these cases and the fight people are undertaking. There are also practical political reasons. The trust fund that was paying for the Superfunds went broke in 2003. There is no more money, and if the government can’t find someone to pay for it, the taxpayer will pay for it.”

Singer’s 365-day project is partially self-funded, but she has received funding from Turbulence.org; New York City; Radio and Net Art, Boston; and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

“We have a set schedule of where we want to see,” Singer said. “But it’s a week-by-week decision which one of us goes where. We are always looking for volunteers to join the effort.”

Singer left the area later Friday and traveled to Stratford, Conn., where her research will continue.

INFOBOX

Web sites:

superfund365.org

turbulence.org

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