The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the addition of 10 new sites to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List of the nation’s most contaminated sites. These sites can threaten the health of entire communities with short-term or long-term risks. Some groups of people, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly, may be at particular risk.
Ecosystems at Superfund sites can be harmed when contaminants accumulate in plants and animals, reducing survival and growth rates, altering the composition of species in an area, seriously damaging or destroying the ecosystem, and rendering fish, shellfish, game and plants inedible. Also, activities at some sites have resulted in destruction of vegetation and topsoil, increasing risks of flooding and storm damage.
EPA adds sites to the National Priorities List when mismanagement of contamination threatens public health and the environment. EPA typically initiates Superfund involvement at a site because states, tribes or citizens ask for the agency’s help. The agency may also find contamination during its own investigations.
Here are some of the sites newly added to the EPA’s National Priorities List:
- El Dorado Chemical Co. site outside of San Antonio, Texas, located in the suburb of Live Oak, Bexar County, Texas, is a former cleaning product manufacturing site. The soil and groundwater are contaminated with chlorinated solvents including tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, dichloroethene and vinyl chloride. If not addressed, the contaminants could harm the Edwards Aquifer, which provides drinking water to 215,722 local residents. Tetrachloroethylene is considered a potential human carcinogen. Animal studies have shown exposure over long periods could cause other effects in the liver and kidneys and changes in brain chemistry.
- SBA Shipyard site in Jennings, Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, is a 98-acre property in the southwest area of the Mermentau River. It was used as a construction repair and maintenance facility for barges from 1965 to 1999. The barges typically serviced diesel, coal tar, creosote, asphalt and crude oil. Soil, sediment and groundwater at the site are contaminated with waste from barge cleaning activities that was co-mingled in on-site pits. Contaminates include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and metals. Contamination has migrated from the facility to underlying ground water, adjacent wetlands and nearby surface waters. The Mermentau River borders the SBA property and is fished recreationally. EPA is working to prevent contamination releases from an abandoned barge that is buried on-site.
- A groundwater plume in Winkler County, Texas, near Highway 18 in Kermit, Texas, west of Odessa, is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that released into the Santa Rosa Aquifer. Currently, seven of the city of Kermit’s nine wells contain either trichloroethene (TCE) or tetrachloroethene (PCE). Because two of the wells contain PCE above health-based limits, the Kermit Public Water Supply system treats and blends water prior to distribution to ensure it meets drinking water standards. The source of contamination is not known.
- North 25th Street Glass and Zinc site in Clarksburg, West Virginia, has contamination from past industrial practices that could pose public health and environmental risks. From 1899 through 1989, glass was manufactured at the Clarksburg facility, and from 1911 to 1924, zinc ore was processed creating a legacy of hazardous waste. Lead, arsenic and zinc are in soils on the property, and in the groundwater and sediments in the nearby West Fork River. The site is currently owned by Harrison Warehouse Services Company, Inc. and is being used as a storage area for recycled paper for a pulp facility, and an automobile repair service. A large, zinc slag pile on-site contains lead, is accessible to the public, and is eroding into the West Fork River. The site also is accessible from a rails-to-trails bike path.