1982- Local residents and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were aware of offsite residential water supply contamination. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allowed dumping to continue at the site.
1984- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Field Investigation.
1987- Site placed on the National Priority List of Superfund Sites. Pennsylvania-Division of Environmental Resources and US-Environmental Protection Agency allowed dumping to continue at the site.
1990- Site ceased to accept waste because it was filled to capacity.
9/27/93- EPA filed suit against site owners and Il original/generator defendants.
8/30/94-The original/generator defendant site owners, NOT THE EPA, filed suit against 180 small businesses, boroughs and school districts.
10/5/95-The third part defendants, NOT THE EPA, filed suit against over 550 other small businesses and individuals.
2/5/97- EPA discovered buried waste outside the area listed for capping. Cleanup was delayed again.
Current Keystone Status: The site cleanup has not started YET. No one is out of the lawsuits YET.
I sincerely thank the chairman and members of the committee for inviting me back.
I am Barbara Williams. My business is SunnyRay Restaurant in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I have been a member of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) since 1982. Joining NFIB was one of the best business decisions I have ever made. Every small business needs all the help it can get. NFIB has been my coach and cheerleader. You cannot beat teamwork like that.
Speaking of teams, I want to thank my staff. They know that I am fighting to save their jobs. Some of these great people have been with me since I opened almost 16 years ago. I am proud of the tremendous job they do. I am grateful for their loyalty.
I am a fourth party defendant at Keystone. I have been sued by my friends and neighbors. Why did they do this? Because the only options they were given by their attorneys was to either pay the exorbitant amount of money that the first and second parties had sued for, or to sue others in order to lessen the amount they would be forced to pay for settlement.
My being brought into this suit defies common sense. I have recycled for years. I have used the trash hauler that was approved and permitted by my borough government. I am told that my trash was then dumped into the Keystone landfill, a site permitted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I would appreciate someone explaining how I have become liable even after I obeyed all state and local regulations. What was I supposed to do with the food scraps? What have I disposed of that is not found in every household?
I am being sued for $76,253.71. That is a lot of money to me, more money than I pay myself a year. The continuing cost of legal representation is not included in that figure.
I want clean air and water for myself and the generation that will follow me. I am not the enemy of the environment. My trash is not the problem. Small businesses are not the enemy of the environment. I am here to tell you again that your wonderful idea of cleaning up our country's environment through the EPA and CERCLA does not work in the real world. Your intentions were not followed. You legislated for results. You got bureaucracy, regulations and litigation. Legions of environmental attorneys, not environmental solutions, were created.
I fight not only the unjust burden of this lawsuit, but the injustice of a landfill on the Superfund National Priority List--ten years, and still NO CLEANUP HAS STARTED.
I have no graphs or charts, no auditors reports. I am not here to toss about facts, figures and percentages. I do not intend to enter the fray over the number of sites cleaned, the time it takes to clean them or even to debate the number of billions spent on litigation and administration. All day could be wasted on whose figures are correct. I believe we can all agree on this: TOO MUCH TIME. TOO MUCH MONEY. TOO FEW RESULTS.
I want to tell you how Superfund impacts lives in south central Pennsylvania. This area has many extremely frustrated people for many reasons. People who live in the area of the landfill are physically sick, frustrated and still waiting for the promised clean up from 10 years ago. People who recently bought and built houses in the area and are just now finding out their neighbor is an uncleaned Superfund site and they are livid.
I would like to share some quotes from Mary Minor, a Hanover Pennsylvania women, who has fought to have the pollution problem resolved long before the EPA was involved. She has lived daily with the effects of pollution and the stress of waiting for the promised clean up.
"Living near a Superfund site is very stressful."
"Stress is a global disease"
"Stress and the mind and body's responses can shatter individuals, communities, entire societies."
"Dealing with agencies and institutions who have power over people and are most often non-responsive or inefficient only exacerbates the stress, resulting in psychophysiological health effects."
"We can not afford this as a society."
"It is unjust for these problems not to be resolved."
"Everyone in our communities suffer."
These remarks were taken for the paper There Is No Away, presented at the International Conference on the Effects of Hazardous Waste on Human Health and the Environment in Atlanta, Georgia.
Take it from me, the third and fourth party defendants in the Keystone case are extremely stressed and frustrated and we are still waiting for a solution.
Please remember the more than 700 third and fourth party defendants are not businesses which regularly produce hazardous or toxic waste. We are in this suit not because of what we discarded, but because of how much waste someone has estimated we threw away. We simply and legally put out the trash according to local and state regulations.
CERCLA is unfair because it imposes strict liability on the public without any real notice as to what we should or should not put in the trash. I am told that ball point pens are hazardous waste. However, I still have not purchased a ball point pen with directions for hazardous waste disposal. Present CERCLA prohibits disposal of hazardous substances, but there is no evidence that any third or fourth party defendants sent hazardous substances to the site.
Our guilt is based on an expert's report which assumes some hazardous material is in all garbage, but there is no real evidence. We simply put out the garbage. And even though that is not what CERCLA was aimed at, we are told we are guilty and expected to meekly write our checks without even being given total and complete indemnification against further claims for additional money.
For small businesses this suit can be devastating. It is an uninsured loss. After years of premiums for liability and umbrella liability policies, we are told we are not covered for our attorney fees or for possible settlement costs. The money for settlement is considered a penalty so it will not be deductible as a business expense. Small businesses will have to make enough money to pay this on top of our other bills and payroll.
Allow me to introduce you to some of my fellow defendant: restaurants, like myself, campgrounds; apartment owners; antique shops; furniture stores (not furniture manufacturers); motels; laundromats; dress shops; pizza shops; department stores; trailer parks; convenience stores; ice cream shops; book stores; pet shops; flower shops; groceries; theaters; delis; and gift shops. We are small business owners. Another example is the Vietnam Vet who's dream was to own a neighborhood tavern. But now he is fighting the government that he not long ago fought for.
We, our employees, and our children live with this cloud over us every day. A child should not have to worry about what's going to happen to her family's business. A nine year old, Sierra Bair of Hanover Pennsylvania, in her letter to President Clinton says, "My family owns restaurants and they serve food not hazardous stuff. Since when is food bad for us. Isn't it a shame so many are getting punished for a few."
Why is this happening? What are we doing to our children? Do you think they will want to grow up and own a small business after they have seen their parents' hopes and dreams destroyed. Our legal battle has been a never-ending expensive roller coaster ride. And the ride in not over yet. Everyone is still paying local and liaison attorneys.
So here we are: The landfill is not cleaned up and the. litigation goes on. Now it is the time to change. If we do not change our actions we will never change our results.
When I testified last April, I was encouraged by your statement that you understood our situation and were resolved to remedy it. That hope was reinforced when I read S. 8. I am very pleased to see that S. 8 addresses many areas I was concerned about: municipal solid waste, small business defendants and co-disposal landfills. I believe you listened and responded. It means a great deal to learn that our voices were heard.
I believe that you know how critical the wording of this bill is. The best example is that current and former members of Congress have told me that they did not write CERCLA to force people like myself and my fellow third and fourth party Keystone defendants to pay clean up costs for Superfund sites. Yet the law, or its interpretations by the courts, and the EPA now hold us liable.
In the small business exemption section, should "30 employees" be amended to read "30 employees or the full time equivalent of 30 employees?" I would emphasis the importance that the bill continue to read "employees or" NOT be changed to read "employees and 3,000,000 gross revenue." I would respectfully request that the manner of proving $3 million gross revenue be explained. Will the definition of Municipal Solid Waste begin more lawsuits? It appears plain to me that your intentions are to resolve the issues that have been used to allow litigation to take precedence over cleanup.
But my concern is that others will not see it so clearly. I am concerned that there will always be a well-meaning EPA official who believes he knows better than you what you meant when the law was written or an attorney upset to see his potential life's work evaporating before his eyes. My fear is that these officials will challenge the authority and intentions of Congress and the President; that some judge somewhere will listen and rule that you did not write the law to say what you meant, and their course of action will continue indefinitely.
I would also like to see work on public awareness and education. If we continue the same action, how will we ever get different results? What, if any, incentive is there to industry business, science, education and research to creatively reduce, eliminate or resolve the problem of pollution? I believe we have the creative minds and entrepreneurial spirit that could revolutionize the technology of clean air and water. The public and businesses need to be encouraged and educated, not penalized for obeying existing laws--as we are being penalized for operating legally.
I have been told that I am too old to be naive enough to believe that the system works. If the nay sayers who tell me I am wasting my time are right, if one American citizen crying out against injustice cannot make a difference, if regulations are more important than rights and results, then sadly we do no longer live under a government of the people, by the people and for the people--and the thousands who have given their lives to protect this grand experiment of government truly died in vain.
When Lincoln came to Gettysburg he expressed concern for our system of government...of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. My concern is that we are perilously close to losing the government Lincoln described, not because of outside enemies but because of an ever-growing, all-powerful bureaucracy.
You are our hope. Thank you.