Thank you Mr. Chairman. Contaminated industrial sites in this country continue to harm our children, our families, and our communities. I am disturbed by the mounting evidence that children are especially vulnerable to suffering brain damage and malignant disease as a result of exposure to the chemicals still found at these polluted sites. The Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine points out that three to four million children and adolescents live within one mile of a Superfund site.
EPA concedes that there is current, actual human exposure to hazardous contaminants at two sites in my state:
In Stratford, Connecticut, wastes containing lead, asbestos, and PCBs are found at thirty locations, including a residential parcel and a community park. Groundwater contaminated with volatile organic compounds flows beneath one hundred and twenty homes in the town. Indoor air testing has confirmed probable intrusion of those compounds unto the basements of those homes.
In Durham, Connecticut, eighty houses abut and surround a contaminated industrial site.
Children live in approximately thirty of those homes. All of the homes, in addition to three churches and a school, lie within the lateral extent of the plume of contaminated groundwater that extends from the industrial site. All of the buildings in the area get their water from wells.
Both of these sites are in the Superfund pipeline, and I deeply appreciate the ongoing work of dedicated EPA employees, state employees, and neighborhood activists to minimize harmful exposure and to clean up the waste. But the people doing that vital work need adequate funding. They are unlikely to get adequate funding if the entire Superfund program is under-funded. I believe that if the Superfund program is under-funded, the responsible officials at the U.S. EPA have an obligation to own up to that fact, so Congress can do something about it. Moreover, I believe the obligation is a moral one, because the health of children is at stake.
I am concerned, then, over indications that EPA is not divulging a significant inadequacy in this vital program’s funding. I would like to rely on EPA’s assurances, because I have tremendous respect for the expertise and dedication of the agency’s career employees. But I have seen enough to make me suspect that whenever a senior EPA official tells Congress that Superfund does not need increased funding, career EPA employees shake their heads in disbelief and dismay.
As Resources for the Future points out, annual appropriations for the Superfund Program have not kept pace with inflation. In fact, the program’s Fiscal Year 2005 appropriation of 1.2 billion dollars represents a forty percent decrease in purchasing power when compared with the Fiscal Year 1987 appropriation of 1.4 billion dollars. Meanwhile, as EPA acknowledges, highly-complex and expensive mega-sites make up an increasing percentage of the program’s cleanup burden.
As the tension has increased between reality and EPA’s insistence that Superfund is adequately funded, EPA management has made less and less in the way of program details available to the public. That secrecy has fostered a suspicion that, in certain instances, sites have been allowed to progress through the Superfund pipeline even though their cleanup has not met the standards to which we can and must hold ourselves in order to protect Americans.
So I am proud to cosponsor Senator Boxer’s bill to reinstate the polluter fee, which is justified and necessary to replenish the Superfund Trust Fund. As a government, we owe that to the children of Stratford, Durham, and countless other communities across the country.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.