The Environmental Protection Agency has announced how it plans to spend $1 billion earmarked in the bipartisan infrastructure bill for cleaning U.S. Superfund sites. The bill, which passed last month, included a total of $3.5 billion for 49 previously unfunded sites across the nation.
One of the first sites in the EPA's crosshairs is the Scovill Industrial Site in Waterbury, Connecticut, which has been on the backlog since 2017 after originally being added to the National Priorities list in 2000.
"Cleaning up the Scovill Landfill in Waterbury is long overdue, and it's great to see federal dollars from the bipartisan infrastructure bill fund critical projects that have been stuck in a backlog. This will go a long way toward improving the health of the East End," Senator Chris Murphy told the EPA.
The other 48 sites are scattered across the lower 48 and Puerto Rico, the EPA said.
Superfund sites, where hazardous waste has been dumped from sources like mining, manufacturing and landfills, have plagued historically underserved communities for years, leading to contaminated drinking water and health problems among residents.
More than one in four Black and Hispanic Americans live within three miles of a Superfund site. And the $1 billion investment into the Superfund site cleanup — the first portion of the total $3.5 billion in funding the infrastructure bill allotted — is focused on helping these communities.
"Approximately 60 percent of the sites to receive funding for new cleanup projects are in historically underserved communities. Communities living near many of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination will finally get the protections they deserve," EPA administrator Michael S. Regan in Friday's press release.
Superfund site cleanup is incredibly important to local health and safety, but it's also time sensitive: At least 60% of Superfund sitesin areas vulnerable to flooding or other worsening disasters of climate change. Since water runoff from Superfund sites can carry poisonous toxins into drinking water, kill wildlife, and contaminate surrounding soil, flooding and storm damage is a significant threat.
Cleaning up Superfund sites "is a critical component of preserving the environment and combating further damage from climate change," U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro told the EPA.
The EPA's announcement comesafter the Trump administration's government shutdowns suspended federal cleanups of Superfund sites, worrying local residents who already had health problems.