Superfund toxic waste sites across the country aren't getting cleaned up because the money isn't available to make it happen. Those are the findings from a report released Wednesday from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
“Across the board, in terms of every cleanup action we looked at, whether that was starting cleanup action, finishing cleanup action, it's really decreased over the past 20 years and 2020 is no exception to that,” said Jillian Gordner, Campaign Associate at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.
Currently, around 22% of the U.S. population lives within three miles of a superfund site, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are more than 1,700 nationwide.
U.S. PIRG found from 1999 to 2020, the money going to the superfund toxic waste program decreased by more than $1 billion.
The report shows 34 construction projects didn't start in 2020 because of a lack of funding.
It can take a decade or more to clean up a site.
“We really think a polluter paid tax should be funding this program. That way, it's not a financial burden on the states or the federal government. It shouldn't be something that's coming out of our pockets. At the same time, we're being exposed to toxic waste that could be increasing our risk for a variety of health problems,” said Gordner.
That tax on chemical and petroleum industries funded the program until 1995 when it expired.
It would be up to Congress to add it again.
U.S. PIRG says it's been considered several times, but there hasn't been a push to get it on the floor for a vote.
If you're not aware if there is a superfund site near you, the EPA has a resource to check on its website.