The most significant problem encountered during the administration of
the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site EPA Technical Assistance Grant was
that information and representations made by the EPA to the community could
not be trusted as being truthful. Repeatedly, representations made to the
community by EPA Remedial Project Managers (RPM) were not fulfilled.
Contrary to the assertions of the first RPM that the Record of Decision
would be the guidance document, the ROD was fundamentally changed and
agreements between the EPA and Hercules were made without implementing the
community participation requirements of Superfund law. The GEC utilized
significant grant resources in trying to decipher what agreements had been
made between the EPA and Hercules, and the implications to our community.
The following are examples of problems encountered while trying to provide
technical assistance to our community for the Hercules 009 Landfill
Toxaphene Analytical Method Changed
The analytical method was changed in 1993 to one that only reported ~10% of
the toxaphene present in our community. The EPA Office of Inspector General
found that the toxaphene analytical method was inappropriate. This
inappropriate and biased toxaphene analytical method was used to delineate
areas for contaminated soil removal in neighborhoods, adjoining properties,
and Altama Elementary School that abut the Hercules 009 Superfund Site. Due
to the significant under-quantification of toxaphene, it is unknown if the
removal actions resulted in protection of human health and the environment
in areas where toxaphene was found outside the Site.
Changes in EPA RPMs resulted in one
making promises to the community that the next RPM did not feel bound to
fulfill. For example, the first RPM said the ROD would be the guidance
document for the remediation of the Site, whereas the second said the ROD
was only of historical interest and had no bearing on actual remediation of
the Site. The subsurface soil remedial action level was raised from 76
Parts Per Million (PPM) to 2000 PPM, which is a fundamental change to the
ROD that requires a reopening of the ROD and community involvement in the
decision-making process. The RPMs actions were calculated to exclude the
community from the decision-making process and circumvent Superfund law.
Produces Fairy Tale to Cover Up Agreements with Hercules
of Significant Differences (ESD) was issued by the EPA to explain some of
the many deviations from the legally binding agreement to contain all
toxaphene on and around the Site. No data was ever produced that supported
the premise of the ESD that water was up-welling under the Site. The EPA
repeatedly asked Hercules to produce the data in support of the ESD, but
this was never done. The ESD was based upon speculation and hearsay to
support the many agreements made between the EPA and Hercules which resulted
in only part of the toxaphene manufacturing wastes being contained. Site
data clearly shows that the EPA’s ESD was no more than a fairy tail.
Deceit and Deception
The EPA asked
the GEC to enter into the EPA mediation program to resolve questions,
comments, and concerns about EPA failure to follow the legally binding
decision for containment of the Site and community input into the
decision-making process required under Superfund law. After numerous
delays, the EPA withdrew from the program one week prior to the mediation
session. The EPA explained that they had delayed the GEC long enough to
complete the remedial work at the Site and our concerns were no longer valid
Headquarters Ignores Community’s Rights Under Superfund Law
submitted our concerns to EPA Headquarters (HQ) about EPA failure to be
truthful to the community and comply with the ROD. Even though EPA HQ
repeatedly said they would respond to the GEC, no response was received.
Ombudsman Promises, Inspector General Breaks Promises
Due to no
response to the GEC from EPA HQ, our concerns were sent to the EPA Office of
the Ombudsman. The EPA Ombudsman asked that we put our concerns into the
form of questions and assured they would be answered. The EPA Ombudsman’s
office was closed and put under the EPA Office of Inspector General (IG).
The IG did not feel bound by the assurances given by the EPA Ombudsman and
limited their response to only questions about the analytical method
developed to under quantify toxaphene. Once again, the lack of continuity
in the EPA resulted in the response given to the GEC not being truthful. The
GEC did extensively document our concerns with the IG.
Grant Kept Community Informed, But Not Involved in the Decision-Making
purpose of the EPA Technical Assistance Grant program is to keep the
community informed about the Superfund process and involved in the
decision-making process. It was our experience that the grant did mot meet
all the objectives and goals of the EPA technical assistance program due to
the efforts of EPA Remedial Project Managers to circumvent Superfund law.
While the community was kept informed, EPA actions excluded our community
from the decision-making process.
Failed to Resolve Ongoing Human Health Threats
The data collected at the Site was flawed due to the inappropriate toxaphene
analytical method used to delineate soil removal actions in neighborhoods,
schoolyards, and surrounding properties. The IG focused upon toxaphene
analysis of Site water but failed to address the human health risks from
contaminated soil. In addition, no soil sampling was recommended, or has
been conducted, to resolve if an ongoing human health threat continues at
Altama Elementary School, or surrounding neighborhoods and properties.
EPA Has Consistently Not Been Truthful or Responsive to Our Community
The EPA has demonstrated that they will tell a community one thing and do
another. Community support for containment of the Hercules 009 Landfill
Superfund Site was forthcoming because the community was assured that ALL
toxaphene would be immobilized, the Site would not be excavated, and the
community would be involved in the decision-making process if any changes
were made to the assurances given to the community. The EPA failed to keep
its promise on any of the assurances given, and engaged in activities
explicitly planned to exclude our community from the decision-making
process. Furthermore, the EPA mediation program, appeal process to EPA HQ,
EPA Ombudsman, and EPA Office of Inspector General all failed to address the
concerns about failure of the EPA to fulfill the legally binding Record of
Decision for the Site. At all levels, the EPA failed our community.
EPA Cannot be Trusted to do What is Right for Our Community
Repeatedly and constantly, the EPA has failed to be truthful and made deals
with the polluter at the expense of our community’s health and environment.
With three more Superfund Sites to be contained or cleaned up in our
community, the question is whether we have learned anything from our
experiences with the Hercules 009 Landfill Superfund Site. Maybe we, as a
community, should advocate for no less that a complete removal of the toxic
mess at all our Superfund Sites