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Letter to The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson, Administrator, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency

Location: Washington, DC

July 14, 2005

The Honorable Stephen L. Johnson
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460-0001

Dear Administrator Johnson:

As the Senate considers the pending nominations of Marcus Peacock, Susan Bodine and Granta Nakayama, we wish to highlight an issue of grave concern regarding the Superfund program. Specifically, we are deeply troubled by data revealing that 103 superfund sites exist nationwide at which EPA has determined "human exposure is currently not under control". At an additional 157 sites, EPA has determined there is not enough data available to determine whether or not human exposure is currently controlled, so the number of sites where humans are in risk of exposure is potentially much higher than 103.

We are most concerned that eleven of these sites are in our state of Illinois; placing Illinois at the top of the list with the most Superfund sites where EPA has failed to control human exposure to hazardous contaminants.

Available materials from EPA reveal that there is insufficient information to determine the impact of the contaminants on the people exposed or even how many people face dangerous exposure. We are also troubled that while an advanced search of these sites reveals the location of schools, it does not identify the number of daycare facilities within proximity to the Superfund site, which would provide a more accurate assessment of how many children face exposure to hazardous contaminants at these sites. Additionally, EPA provides no information revealing or prioritizing which sites are the most harmful. There is also little information concerning EPA's plans to address, reduce and prevent future human exposure at these sites.

One of the 11 sites, the Ottawa Radiation Areas in LaSalle County, involves 14 areas contaminated by radioactive materials throughout the city of Ottawa. The homes of 50 people were built on soil contaminated by radioactive materials. While 17,500 people live in Ottawa, there is no information noting how many people in Ottawa face exposure. An EPA map also reveals that there are eleven schools located within a five mile radius of the Ottawa superfund site yet information is insufficient to determine the potential health threat to the pupils attending these schools. Instead, the EPA information available notes, "access is unrestricted, and individuals could be at risk from direct contact with, or accidental ingestion of, contaminated soils." Finally, while EPA notes that human exposure is not controlled, EPA has yet to allocate any funds to clean up this site.

We request that EPA take immediate steps to provide any information available on each of these 11 sites in Illinois, as well as the 103 sites throughout the United States, in which EPA has not taken the appropriate steps to reduce and control human exposure to hazardous contaminants. Furthermore, we request that EPA conduct an analysis and report the exposure threat at each site and the populations potentially at risk. This analysis should also include a complete national review of all of the 103 sites on the NPL list when human exposure has not been controlled and determine which of these sites poses the greatest risk of human exposure. Lastly, we request that EPA provide a detailed plan outlining how and under what timetable the Agency plans to control human exposure at the 11 sites in Illinois, as well as the 103 sites nationwide.

Finally, Illinois contains six of the 157 superfund sites on the NPL for which there is insufficient data to determine whether or not human exposure is controlled. We request that EPA report on the steps necessary to compile sufficient data to determine whether humans are being exposed to hazardous materials at these 157 sites.

This matter is of great importance to the people of Illinois and the nation. We look forward to your timely and thorough response.


Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senate

Barack Obama
U.S. Senate

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