Local businessman appears caught in the middle of clean-up funding philosophies
With downtown Rockfords scenic Rock River as a backdrop, Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, attacked the Bush administrations environmental policies that the club claims have negatively affected clean-up efforts at Superfund sites on the national, state and local levels. Specifically, Darin said the administration eliminated a tax on polluters that was used to pay for clean-up of Superfund sites.
Instead, Darin said taxpayers are now funding those efforts, which has delayed implementing remedies that continue to threaten public health and hinder economic development in the Rockford area. He cited three local Superfund sites where human exposure to chemicals is not under control, which are located in Rockton, Belvidere and Rockford.
At Rocktons Beloit Corp. site, soil groundwater and pond sediment are contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate from a solid or liquid into a gaseous state.
In Belvidere, the site at Parsons Casket Hardware Co. also has soil and groundwater contaminated with VOCs.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said Rockfords controversial southeast Superfund site has soil and groundwater that are contaminated with chlorinated solvents. Specifically, the agency said trichloroethylene (tricholroethene), tetrachloroethene (tetrachloroethene) 1,1,1-trichloroethane, cis-1,2 dichloroethene and vinyl chloride have been found in residential wells.
However, Dean Ekberg, son of Superfund litigant Glen Ekberg, said the EPA has done little or nothing to cleanup the area where the wells are located. Instead, Dean Ekberg said EPA officials and attorneys are pursuing implementing expensive and risky clean-up remedies for a different area in the Southeast Rockford Superfund site, which is known as Area 7.
Dean Ekberg wants the EPA to consider new research findings to remedy pollution concerns in Area 7, where his family owns property adjacent to Ekberg Park, off Sandy Hollow Road. The Ekbergs proposed inexpensive and reportedly just as effective natural remedies to cleanup the pollution, which means planting specific types of trees and grasses (see May 5 article Superfund proposal could save $6 million).
However, Dean Ekberg said Mary Reed, trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, isnt interested in reconsidering the preferred remedy. He said Reed is only interested in trying the liability case against his father rather than considering whats best for the environment and taxpayers. Reed said April 27 she couldnt discuss pending litigation.
If found liable, the Ekbergs may be forced to pay millions for the clean-up, even though the pollution occurred before they bought property where Area 7 is located. Glen Ekberg bought the property where the park and land is at in 1964.
If the Ekbergs have to pay for the more expensive, riskier, but preferred EPA remedy, the situation appears to not fit into either philosophy that either the Sierra Club or Bush administration advocate, which is either polluters or a taxpayer-supported Superfund pays for cleanup.
The official Bush campaign Web site indicates approximately 70 percent of Superfund site cleanups are paid for by responsible parties. In cases where the responsible party either cannot be found or is no longer in business, the Superfund pays for cleanup; currently, about 30 percent of Superfund cleanups involve orphan sites. According to the Web site, Bush plans a $124 million (or 10 percent) increase in fiscal year 2005 money for Superfund from 2004 levels.
Darin said despite the Bush administration environmental rollbacks, Illinois leaders are countering negative federal impacts by enacting state measures such as increasing restrictions on mercury emissions from Illinois coal plants, new limits on phosphorous levels from wastewater treatment plants, and legislation that would require a percentage of power sold in Illinois come from renewable resources.
Rockford Mayor Doug Scott echoed Darins comments, and said the legislation removes what was limited support for renewable energy in Illinois.
In an apparent contradiction to what Darin implied about Illinois mercury emissions, Bushs campaign site lists several legislative measures they claim have limited power plant emissions such as mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide.
Bush claims currently, there are no standards for mercury emissions from power plants. The Bush administration is setting a standard for the first time in the United States. The Administration will impose a mandatory 70 percent cut in mercury emissions from power plants over the next 15 years.
In support of the Sierra Clubs accusations, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and author of the 2004 book Crimes Against Nature, called Bush the worst environmental president in our nations history. Kennedy claimed on National Public Radios Sept. 3 Diane Rehm Show to have bipartisan praise for the book and its assertions.
Kennedy accused the Bush administration of jeopardizing the nations public health, environmental health, national security and democracy by taking corporate cronyism to unprecedented heights through campaign contributions, negative policy changes and awarding questionable contracts to supporters at the expense of the environment and future generations.
To read the Bush administrations version of its environmental record, visit: www.georgewbush.com.
The Sierra Clubs full report concerning Bush is available at: www.illinois.sierraclub.org.