Eshoo Opens Inquiry into Shortfalls of Toxic Cleanup in Silicon Valley

March 31st, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has opened an inquiry with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding a recent investigative report on the effectiveness of the Superfund program at cleanup sites in the Silicon Valley region and across the country. In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Eshoo is requesting more information on the extent to which the agency monitors the interstate transport and treatment of hazardous waste from Superfund sites, alternative cleanup methods, and if the agency has enough regulatory authority in this area. According to the EPA, there are 21 Superfund sites across Silicon Valley, including nine in the 18th Congressional District.

The text of Rep. Eshoo’s letter follows:

March 28, 2014

The Honorable Gina McCarthy, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

I’m writing to you because I have serious concerns about the effectiveness of the Superfund program and the associated pollution that is created by the collection, transport, and treatment of toxic pollutants from Superfund sites. I represent a congressional district which is home to several Superfund sites in urban and residential areas, making this issue critically important to my constituents.

I’m a strong supporter of the Superfund law and of holding accountable those who pollute our communities with highly toxic chemicals. Superfund is a core environmental statute and has been undoubtedly successful at cleaning up toxic waste sites. However, what I’m concerned about is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is failing to properly monitor and regulate the emissions associated with remediating the toxic pollutants recovered from Superfund sites, as reported in a March 17, 2014, article from the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Guardian U.S.

Of particular concern are the emissions of dioxin which is on the EPA’s “Dirty Dozen” list of dangerous chemicals and is a known carcinogen. The carbon emissions associated with collecting, transporting, and treating hazardous waste from Superfund sites are deeply troubling. I also understand that in some cases the traditional “pump and treat” method for de-contaminating groundwater may not be as effective as alternative treatment methods.

To that end, I request your prompt response to the following questions:

  1. Does the EPA monitor the carbon dioxide emissions generated in the interstate transportation and treatment of hazardous waste or dioxin emissions from carbon regeneration facilities? To what extent does EPA monitoring or regulations of these emissions protect human health and the environment?
  2. Has the EPA investigated scientifically and financially feasible alternatives to the current methods being used to treat hazardous waste sites, in particular contaminated groundwater? If not, does the EPA plan to investigate such alternatives?
  3. Does the EPA have sufficient regulatory authority to monitor and control toxic pollutants generated after removal from the Superfund site, or is Congressional action necessary to grant additional authority?

I thank you in advance for your cooperation and I look forward to your timely response.

Most gratefully,

Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress


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