What is a Superfund Site?

Why care?

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What is a Superfund site?

It is self-evident that safe drinking water is vital for the survival and good health of all populations. Regrettably, poor management of hazardous materials endangers the health of humans everywhere. I have hitherto made a small commotion about these tragic and dangerous sites. Alas, I know I could do more to raise awareness about Superfund sites and the potential dangers they pose to human health. I have chosen to do so for three reasons:

  1. the media seldom reports anything related to Superfund sites
  2. few know what Superfund sites are and where they are found
  3. public health officials have done little to assuage my concerns about potential health risks associated with Superfund sites

I have provided a brief overview of the topic and why I think this issue deserves more attention.

What is Superfund?

In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (a.k.a. the Superfund Act) was passed which granted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to enforce environmental law and hold offending parties legally and financially accountable for their egregious waste disposal practices.

When land becomes sufficiently contaminated with hazardous materials whereby it imperils the health of the surrounding population, the EPA will designate such a location as a Superfund site and will allocate governmental funds to assist in cleanup and remediation efforts.

Why Care About Superfund Sites?

Numerous studies have addressed the adverse health implications associated with hazardous materials and, thus, the dangers these materials pose on human well-being has been well attested. The adverse consequences of exposure to hazardous materials include cancer, respiratory infections, exacerbation of chronic maladies, congenital malformations, and augmentation of the immune system’s function (i.e. hypersensitivity or immunosuppression).

Some of the hazardous materials found at a Superfund site are metals. Welcome the cast:

  • arsenic
  • beryllium
  • cadmium
  • cobalt
  • chromium
  • mercury
  • nickel
  • lead
  • selenium
  • vanadium
  • antimony
  • barium
  • strontium
  • copper
  • bismuth
  • molybdenum
  • aluminum

Why I Care?

As of February 2016, 254 Superfund sites are found on Long Island, New York. More alarming, each site threatens potable groundwater sources, our primary source of drinking water.

It has also been established that myriad factors contribute to cancer, genetic and non-genetic alike. According to the New York State Department of Health, cancer is “second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death,” with approximately 100,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Furthermore, to isolate my home county, Nassau County, the leading cause of death for a Nassau County resident between the ages of 25 and 64 is cancer. Beginning from as little as 12 cases per 100,000 at 25 years, the incidence of cancer grows to 255 per 100,000 at 64 years for residents.

Possible Solutions

Superfund sites need to be brought to the forefront of media discussions. The absurdities and inane theatrics of this presidential election cycle have obscured many important issues, environmental contamination being just one of many. Additionally, outlets like TMZ and others that focus on the meaningless encounters and happenings of celebrities need to be harshly reproached. It is a sad state of affairs when individuals know more about the Kardashians than about the hazardous materials which threaten our drinking water.

Maintaining potable water supplies requires increased hydrological and hazardous materials education along with broadened public awareness of Superfund sites in order to salvage contaminated sites and prevent future contaminations. Community-based advocacy and lobbying are required. We need awareness campaigns. I’m talking about commercials, news articles, photographs, videos, blog posts, hashtags, etc..

A change in the attitudes about water conservation needs to take place so that attitudes are akin to the meticulous manner which society demands its food standards to be. Legislation must also be more aggressive towards parties that endanger public health via poor handling of hazardous materials. Surveillance and oversight committees need to be established to ensure those laws are enforced and that individuals are encouraged to report crimes with impunity.

To buttress against the collapse of our limited potable water supplies, it will take action by conscientious and sedulous individuals who can disseminate this knowledge in hopes of providing safe drinking water to all.

1 comments on “What is a Superfund Site?”

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