by Spencer Helm
The former site of C & D recycling in Foster Township, PA has been deleted from the EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL). This site was used from 1963 to 1984 to reclaim metallic copper from old copper cables. This process resulted in hazardous waste and the contamination of soil and water. From 1984 until 2016 the site was being restored, requiring the disposal 80,000 tons of soil, along with another 10,000 tons of other contaminated media, and the demolishing of structures and reseeding to prevent soil erosion. Sites can be deleted from the NPL with state concurrence when they have been entirely restored to their natural state, and no further response is necessary. Because all site clean-up goals have been met, the EPA opened for comment on deleting the site from the NPL, and after receiving no resistance from the public, has gone through with this decision.
While the fact that the EPA saw this project through to the end is admirable, it is unfortunate that this situation arose in the first place. The tendency of the US to outsource hazardous refining and recycling processes to developing nations is very much a policy of “shallow ecology”.
This is the first I have heard of the National Priorities List and it sounds like it is a very beneficial program. According to the EPA there are currently 1184 NPL sites, and 94 of them are in Pennsylvania. While the removal of this site is good news, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to remove the other sites. However, I am wondering if there are any restrictions on the sites after they are removed from the list. Many of them require 5-year reviews so there must be some sort of limitations on the land to allow for them to easily inspect the progress over time. Also, even though the land is considered safe, there are probably negative thoughts about using land that once was on the NPL.
I also agree with your point that it is a shame that we have gotten to the point where we need programs like this. While we are recognizing our mistakes and trying to remedy them in our country, we are just sending these factories to other countries and letting them deal with the problems. So even though we won’t see the factories and their direct impact at first, they will still affect us in the long run since we all share this planet.
I think its great that there is a National Priorities list for the clean up of past waste dumps and site where resources were extracted. Unfortunately all too often theses site were developed in areas of low economic standing such as Chester; where we have a multitude of waste burning plants. often times the areas that get cleaned up are up and coming neighborhoods or higher income neighborhoods and the poorer areas are left untouched at the bottom of the list.
I am happy that this effort of restoring areas from hazardous waste and contamination is working. This is something that could very easily just be written on paper and never enforced or followed. We have learned much about our world and what is and isn’t good for it over the years, and are working to help it. It does, however, show how shallow these sentiments go that we pretty up our own nation, but ask another to destroy their land for our needs. Our country has a waste and contamination problem and instead of dealing with it at the roots of the issue, we are putting a band-aid on it or just sending it where we don’t have to look at it.