STATEMENT BY SENATOR BARBARA BOXER
September 4, 1997
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
SUPERFUND REAUTHORIZATION HEARING

Mr. Chairman, as you know Superfund reauthorization is of critical importance to the people of California. My State has 97 Superfund sites -- the fourth highest after New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Superfund activities to clean our water, restore our soils, and eliminate potential exposure to hazardous materials affect the majority of the citizens of my state. Californian's want and deserve a strong Superfund.

When considering reauthorization of Superfund, there are three principles that we must adhere to.

First, Superfund must include appropriate and carefully crafted guidelines that will guarantee that the public health is protected now and in the future.

Second, parties responsible for polluting a site must be held responsible for site cleanup and restoration.

Third, Superfund must ensure expeditious and efficient cleanups.

Mr. Chairman, there are key areas in the draft proposal before us today that do not meet these principles. Let me explain what some of some of my concerns are.

First, I am concerned with the fact that there is no explicit requirement in the bill that cleanup standards be set at levels that protect the health of children, the elderly, and other vulnerable subpopulations. By lowering remediation standards from 10~ -6 (Ten to the minus six) to a range of between 10 -6~ and 10 -4~, this bill specifically endorses a lower standard which may not protect children. If we are going to allow a lower cleanup standard, we should only do so if we can ensure that it will protect children and other vulnerable subpopulations.

Second, I am concerned with provisions in the draft bill concerning "hot spots," and how these provisions could short circuit ongoing "hot spot" cleanup efforts.

For example, in the San Gabriel Valley in California, the San Gabriel Water Quality Authority, together with a few Potentially Responsible Parties (PRP's) are working on the treatment of three local "hot spots." This bill could jeopardize "hot spot" treatment projects at South El Monte, because it removes the preference for treatment in favor of containment of contamination. It is not enough to say that treatment will be the preferred method of cleanup only when "contaminants cannot be reliably contained... and present substantial risk.. because of high toxicity.. and there is a reasonable probability of actual ~exposure..~~.

Mr. Chairman, 92 percent of the National Priority List sites in California involve groundwater contamination. Over 3.2 million people get their drinking water from aquifers over which a site is located. Half assurances are not adequate for my constituents. We must ensure that highly toxic and mobile contaminated groundwater be treated to avoid migration and further groundwater contamination.

Third, I am concerned that the Natural Resources Damages (NRD) Title in the bill, which provides for restoring natural resources that have been damaged by a polluter, is not strong enough.

In southern California we have an NRD site called Montrose. The Montrose site involves the discharge of tons of DDT off the coast of Palos Verde near Los Angeles, which nearly decimated the area's bald eagles, peregrine falcons, brown pelicans, and other birds, and caused many species of fish to become unfit for human and wildlife consumption. Strong NRD provisions will ensure the restoration of these resources, for future generations.

Fourth, I am concerned about provisions in the bill that would exempt hazardous waste generators and transporters from any liability at "co-disposal" sites (where hazardous waste was disposed together with municipal waste). This would exempt every large polluter from liability at these sites and clearly goes against the polluter pay principle.

Mr. Chairman, I have other areas of concern including the role that communities have in developing cleanup plans, the expanded role that States will have in administering cleanup at National Priority List sites, and the general limits of public participation in decisionmaking.

Mr. Chairman, because of the scope and importance of this bill, I hope that following this hearing we will work together to shape a bill all of us can support and that is worthy of the people we serve.