There are at least 29 toxic waste dump sites around the country as dangerous or more so than the infamous Love Canal site in New York, the Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday. Nine are in New Jersey.
EPA Administrator Anne M. Gorsuch released an "interim priority" list of the 115 worst known dumps nationwide, saying the new Superfund cleanup program is almost ready to take action on them. Love Canal is in the third-ranked group of 10, partly because a lot of cleanup work has already been done there and most of the endangered people have moved away.
Florida has 16 sites on the list, more than any other state, and New Jersey is next with 12. New York and Pennsylvania each have eight. Vermont, which inadvertently had been omitted from the list until late yesterday afternoon, was added after Senate Environment Committee Chairman Robert T. Stafford (R-Vt.) called it to the administration's attention.
Superfund, a highly popular program approved last December and funded jointly by the chemical industry and government, has had many delays in getting started. Proposed detailed regulations for it, including the crucial level of cleanliness that any cleanup will have to reach, were only submitted to the Office of Management and Budget this week. The regulations will not be final until next summer at the earliest.
Yesterday's word of progress came at the height of strong congressional attacks on Gorsuch for budget cuts and policy shifts at EPA. She told a news conference that despite funding cuts, Superfund has "the highest priority" in her eyes and will take $200 million of EPA's money this year.
Gorsuch said the list, which includes sites in 45 states, represents only a first step toward getting more of the $1.6 billion Superfund into the field over the next five years.
Work can begin on those sites when a state commits 10 percent of the estimated cleanup costs, she said, or 50 percent if the site was publicly owned. The agency expects to spend an average of $4 million on each site.
The priority listing represents EPA's evaluation of the danger to people around the sites as of mid-July, when the list was compiled, Gorsuch said.
Next year the EPA will draw up a final list of 400 sites that Superfund will tackle with studies, emergency action or enforcement suits, as well as long-term cleanup.
States still are investigating their waste dumps and have until Dec. 31 to nominate other locations for Superfund help. Ten states or territories have no site on this list, but could be included at a high priority level if their submissions warrant it, Gorsuch said. There are 26 states with one site each.
Some of the current sites risk being bumped on the final tally, she admitted, but added, "We have every reason to think these will be included."
Spending first began last spring at the Nashua, N.H., Gilson Road site, which is listed near the bottom of yesterday's count "because we already have it pretty well under control," according to Christopher Capper, EPA's acting assistant administrator for solid wastes and emergency responses.
The EPA's "worst 10" list, named alphabetically and not in order of seriousness, included Commencement Bay, Tacoma, Wash.; Keefe Environmental Services, Epping, N.H.; Lipari Landfill, Pitman, N.J.; Mark Phillip Trust, Woburn, Mass.; McAdoo Associates, McAdoo, Pa.; Nyanza Chemical Waste Group, Ashland, Mass.; Pollution Abatement Services, Oswego, N.Y.; Price Landfill, Pleasantville, N.J.; Tar Creek, Ottawa County, Okla., and Tybouts Corner, New Castle, Del.