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Durbin, Obama Dissatisfied with EPA Response to Illinois Superfund Site Questions

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DURBIN, OBAMA DISSATISFIED WITH EPA RESPONSE TO ILLINOIS SUPERFUND SITE QUESTIONS

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) today expressed their dissatisfaction with the response they received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding information about Illinois Superfund sites. Last year, the EPA released data showing that at 103 Superfund sites nationwide, "human exposure is currently not under control." In a recent letter to the Senators, the EPA explained human exposure as being under control when "there are no completed exposure pathways to contaminants at unsafe levels under current site conditions." Illinois is number one on the list, with 11 sites where people are at risk for exposure to hazardous contaminates.

Durbin and Obama sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson last July, requesting that EPA take immediate steps to provide information on each of the 11 Illinois sites in which EPA has not controlled human exposure to hazardous materials. The senators requested that EPA analyze the exposure threat and human risk factors at each site, evaluating which sites pose the greatest risk of human exposure. Durbin and Obama requested a detailed plan outlining how and when EPA plans to fully control human exposure at the listed sites.

In today's letter to EPA Administrator Johnson, Durbin and Obama asked for more complete answers to critical questions outlined in their initial letter.

"After 10 months, we are disappointed that many of our questions remain unanswered," Durbin and Obama wrote. "In fact, we are surprised that Assistant Administrator Susan P. Bodine's response yielded less information than we were able to gather from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website. We are genuinely concerned about these sites and what seems to be EPA's inattention to the human exposure that may be occurring. We continue to have serious questions regarding the failure to take necessary action, at these sites to protect Illinois citizens."

In today's letter, Durbin and Obama asked for additional information on the following sites: a vacant lot used as a playground in Ottawa, the municipal water supply in Belvedere, a site near residences in Rockford, a site in Kess Creek/West Branch of the DuPage River and at the Lenz Oil Service site in Lemont.

"Given that our initial request for information was made in July 2005, we believe comprehensive responses to that request are long overdue," Durbin and Obama wrote. "Accordingly, we expect a response to this letter by no later than June 5, 2006."

According to an official publication of the EPA -- human exposure is currently not under control at the following Illinois sites:

# Parsons Casket Hardware Co., Belvedere
# De Pue/New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Corp., De Pue
# Kerr-McGee, Kress Creek/West Branch of DuPage River, DuPage County
# Jennison-Wright Corportation, Granite City
# Lenz Oil Service, Inc., Lemont
# Ottawa Radiation Areas, Ottawa
# Southeast Rockford Ground Water Contamination, Rockford
# Beloit Corp., Rockton
# Outboard Marine Corp., Waukegan
# Kerr-McGee, West Chicago (Residential Areas)
# Kerr-McGee, West Chicago (Sewage Treatment Plant)

Full text of Durbin and Obama's letter is attached and below.

May 19, 2006

The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Johnson:

We are in receipt of your response to our July 14, 2005, request for information regarding Illinois National Priority List (NPL) sites where uncontrolled human exposure may be occurring.

After 10 months, we are disappointed that many of our questions remain unanswered. In fact, we are surprised that Assistant Administrator Susan P. Bodine's response yielded less information than we were able to gather from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website. We are genuinely concerned about these sites and what seems to be EPA's inattention to the human exposure that may be occurring. We continue to have serious questions regarding the failure to take necessary action, at these sites to protect Illinois citizens.

Cancer is the number one killer in America. According to the American Cancer Society, 2% of American cancer cases and deaths are attributable to man-made and naturally occurring environmental pollutants. The 11,000 deaths each year represent cases for which we understand the cause. The cause of many cancers remains unknown, and there remains much to learn about how pollutants interact with each other as well as with human genetics.

While we are concerned about the population at large, we have a special concern for the children in the communities where possible human exposure sites are located. We want to ensure that every measure is taken to prevent access to these sites by children until clean-up at these sites has been completed and the sites no longer pose a health threat. In some cases the information the EPA has provided makes it clear that the site has been secured, but the information is more ambiguous regarding other sites.

We would appreciate additional information regarding the following:

# Ottawa Radiation Areas NPL Site - EPA's response notes that operable unit 11 is a vacant lot in a residential area which children use as a playground. Contamination is 6 feet below the surface. Does the depth of the contamination protect the children from exposure? Your website includes information that other units were decontaminated to the 10-feet level. Is there any chance that the inhalation exposure pathway described could affect children playing on this site now or in the future? Are there steps that can be taken to fence off the area to protect the children? EPA's response further notes that there is a skateboard park adjacent to the site with contamination from the surface to 3 feet deep. Does the skateboard site encapsulate the contamination? How are the child and adult skateboarders protected from needless exposure? Is the EPA regularly monitoring this site to ensure that no contamination is migrating? According to constituent reports, people continue to suffer from cancer caused by the contamination in Ottawa. This community lost a generation of women due to radium exposure; they should not have to bear the consequences of continued exposure.

# Parsons Casket Hardware (Belvedere) - The EPA website notes that the U.S. Geological Survey found contamination of the underground aquifer to be more extensive than originally thought. EPA's response indicates that a record of decision (ROD) for the groundwater operable unit has been signed. Please elaborate on the current potential threat to Belvedere's municipal water supply and what steps are being taken now that the ROD has been signed.

# Interstate Pollution Control, Inc. (Rockford) - EPA's response states that human exposure currently occurs at this site and that there are residences as near as 600 feet. While the response indicates that those residences are hydraulically up gradient from the site, it does not indicate whether or not the inhalation pathway could be affecting residents. The EPA website indicates that cleanup construction was scheduled to begin in early 2006. Please provide additional information about the current risks to nearby residents and what progress has been made in cleaning up the site.

# Kerr-McGee -Kress Creek/West Branch of the DuPage River (West Chicago) - Please provide an updated report on the clean-up work that was scheduled to begin in 2005. EPA's response indicates that affected residents may be exposed to gamma radiation in both residential and recreational areas. We request information on why EPA is doing nothing to control such exposure.

# Lenz Oil (Lemont) - EPA's response indicates that the most significant cancer risk for current and future residents on or adjacent to the site is inhalation of contaminants. Given that the ROD for the site was signed in 1999, what steps has EPA taken to protect nearby residents from inhalation exposure?

Given that our initial request for information was made in July 2005, we believe comprehensive responses to that request are long overdue. Accordingly, we expect a response this letter by no later than June 5, 2006. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Barack Obama
United States Senator

http://durbin.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=255901&&

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