The United States Senate
Superfund, Toxics, Risk, and Waste Management
April 10, 2002
The Chemical Insecticide Corporation
Superfund is not merely about numbers and budgets. Superfund is also about people living in poisoned communities. And about promises made to the American people by the federal government that are about to be broken.
My name is Robert Spiegel. I am the Executive Director of the Edison Wetlands Association, a non-profit environmental organization in central New Jersey that has been working for the cleanup of Superfund sites for more than a decade. The Edison Wetlands Association is now actively involved in seven Superfund site cleanups and 15 state-led cleanups in New Jersey.
I am here today to tell you the story of one Superfund site--the impact it has had on the surrounding community, and the consequences that will result from the lack of funding to clean the site up. I am also here to ask that funding for remediating these sites be continued. It is imperative that we deal with these sites swiftly and conscientiously, or we will continue to endanger the lives of our citizens and future generations.
I have been closely involved with the Superfund process since 1991. For 11 years, I have been working to have the Chemical Insecticide Superfund Site in Edison, New Jersey, cleaned up. From 1954 to 1972, the Chemical Insecticide Corporation, CIC, manufactured pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, including Agent Orange and other experimental defoliants that were used during the war in Vietnam. After owner Arnold Livingston declared bankruptcy and moved along to his next site, the buildings were razed, leaving a vacant lot where the soil and ground water are highly contaminated with arsenic, heavy metals, pesticides, and dioxins.
In the spring of 1991, a friend asked if I wanted to see "green” rabbits. Armed with a video camera, we took a short ride to the Chemical Insecticide Superfund Site. The first thing that struck me was the smell--the smell of death and decay. Nothing grew on the property except a strange florescent green moss. Small animal carcasses littered the area, and there were, indeed, “green” rabbits living there. The rabbits had developed an abnormal greenish yellow undercoat that I would later discover was the result of Dinoseb, a pesticide disposed of in large quantities throughout the site.
We followed a trail of yellow liquid draining from the back of the site downstream past a neighboring industrial bakery and into the Edison Glen and Edison Woods residential developments. There we video taped a child playing in the poisoned stream who told us it was a good place to hang out and look for frogs and turtles. I subsequently found out that the vacant CIC lot was a playground for local children, the chemical lagoons were their wading pools, and adults routinely scavenged materials from the site.
I contacted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), spoke with the project manager and sent him a copy of the videotape. About two weeks later the EPA posted warning signs along the brook. Panic erupted as residents assumed the worst - they were at risk from exposure to a witches' brew of chemicals, and the value of their homes had plummeted overnight. The EPA, however, refused to conduct additional testing. It seemed that, having posted the signs, they felt that the problem had been solved.
I started a small citizens group to work on gathering and disseminating reliable information. We held a series of public meetings to inform the local residents and public officials about the contamination and discuss what could be done. From 1991 to 1993, the newly-formed Edison Wetlands Association pursued vigorous and continuous interaction with the EPA, and state and local health officials. Public hearings were held and the issue was widely publicized on television and in print.
I also assisted in the relocation of several families who were plagued by illnesses – illnesses widely believed to be the result of living downstream from what the Agency For Toxic Substance and Disease Registry had labeled a “Public Health Hazard”. A local police officer had a rare blood disease, his wife had reproductive problems, and their two children were showing symptoms of arsenic exposure. I worked with the family and their attorney to relocate them to a safer home in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Several employees of a bakery on adjoining property died as a result of cancer believed to be caused by toxic runoff from the CIC site. The attorney for several of their widows called on me to testify, since I had witnessed and video taped the yellow ooze draining from the site onto the bakery property. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. No one should have to die because they work near a Superfund Site.
By spring 1993, the Edison Wetlands Association relationship with the EPA began to develop into a more productive one. At the suggestion of the EPA, we applied for and were awarded an EPA Technical Assistance Grant (TAG). The grant allowed us to hire technical experts to help us understand the scientific and technical issues as well as the limitations of the Superfund program. We were able to secure a comprehensive cleanup and restoration of the Edison Glen and Edison Woods residential developments and the Mill Brook. The EPA also installed a temporary liner on the site to prevent direct contact with the most contaminated soils.
Since 1993, we have worked closely with the EPA on the Chemical Insecticide site, as well as other Superfund sites in central New Jersey. While we have had vocal, and sometimes heated disagreements, we have also seen tangible results at the site. By 2001, the CIC Site was considered as a national model for the Superfund Program, demonstrating effective public participation and resulting in a full and permanent cleanup of the area. Three presidents, three governors, and three remedial project managers later, all of the interested parties decided that the best course of action was to remove the contaminated soil from the CIC Site, the adjoining bakery, and several other neighboring industrial properties.
The estimated cost for cleanup of the CIC site is $40 million and CIC is on the Superfund appropriations list. At our last joint public meeting in January, the EPA announced to the community that this work was to begin in November 2002. Several weeks ago, I received a call from the EPA informing me that there was no money to begin this, or any new cleanups in our region and there probably would not be funding for several years. Meanwhile, the temporary cover at the CIC Site is breaking down and now has holes in it. When it fails, the brook and the nearby residential developments will once again be exposed to contamination. It is obvious that we need a permanent solution now, not sometime in the distant future.
Today I’ve talked about just one Superfund site and its impact on just one community. There are 1,235 Superfund sites impacting thousands of communities across the country. Chemical pollution has severely impacted our water, air and soil. Manufacturers, residents, and government, as stewards of these resources, must protect them and work towards their restoration.
The Superfund program was begun not only to protect human life but also to cleanup and restore our natural resources. We need the funds generated by the Superfund tax and only with your help can we get Superfund back on track. I ask you to assist in making our communities whole again.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.