As the government shutdown bleeds into its second day, more than 94 percent of the 16,205 public servants at the Environmental Protection Agency are not allowed to go to work. This means that cleanup on 62 percent of the nation’s Superfund sites must be abandoned until a continuing resolution gets passed and funding resumes.
The Superfund program cleans up the worst toxic waste sites in America. An EPA official told Huffington Post that because of the shutdown, 505 Superfund locations in 47 states across the country would be suspended. There are 807current sites, so with 505 of them shuttered, that’s 62 percent left to their own devices.
They chose the 38 percent by deciding which Superfund site managers’ work prevents immediate threats to human life (as opposed to more long, drawn-out harm). This means only locations that, if work stopped, contaminants would immediately get into the drinking water, for instance. Some contractors can continue work for a few weeks until their funding runs out, unless they reach a stage where EPA Remedial Project Managers are needed to approve the step. Work would stop then, even if there is funding available.
The dredging of New Jersey’s Passaic River of dioxins, PCBs, and mercury will continue this week, though it is unclear for how long. Another Jersey toxic waste site in Garfield may stop plans to excavate soil leaching chromium into nearby residents’ basements.