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Superfund site is a site that brings threat to both health of the public and environment and is listed in National Priority List (NPL). Superfund law was enacted in 1980 by Comprehensive Environmental Response Act (United States Environmental Protection Agency). The law permits Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up hazardous sites or push stake holders, such as the government, to clean such sites. In order to declare a place for a superfund site, complex procedures are involved including site assessments, placing them in the National Priority List, and setting up ways of implementing clean up (United States Environmental Protection Agency).
Superfund sites have caused a lot of threats. Waste products like mercury contaminate underground water when they dissolve; toxic gases, such as sulphur dioxide, from such sites pollute the air; and soil becomes contaminated and makes agricultural products perform poorly. Flowing water from rivers contains toxic substances that “cause” soil erosion, and when it is used by animals and plants, it causes negative health effects (The Environment a Global Challenge). According to The Environment a Global Challenge, some of the health effects associated with superfund site are “nausea, headaches, respiratory diseases, heart and kidney diseases, and birth defects.”
Since superfund was found, Environmental Protection Agency identified and put 1620 hazardous sites in the National Priorities List, and by 2008, only 341 sites had been cleaned up (Blumenauer). This shows how slow the program takes to be fully implemented. Locally, many governments are concerned with the negative effects caused by superfund sites and have put in place various measures to tackle the problem.
Solutions to Superfund Sites
The key solution to superfund sites is clean up programs. The clean up should be done to both land and underground water. Most governments and environmental agencies should develop workable policies that can help identify and clean existing superfund sites. This can be possible if adequate funds are allocated to the cleanup programs, laws governing the process are well developed and strictly followed, and the experienced work force in both logistics and technology sections is employed. This is because superfund workers require more experience in order to evaluate and choose the best technology for use (NTIS).
The public should be taught on better ways to dispose their waste substances, including liquids and gases. These include recycling or treatment of wastes so that they become harmless to both the environment and public health. This should be accompanied by provision of tough laws that would punish those found violating them.
Since superfund is a complex problem due to its hazardous effects both to the environment and health, a lot of research are carried out to get the best solution to the problem. Superfund Research Program, for example, is a research group dedicated to find solutions to Superfund sites’ problems. This includes ways of preventing occurrence of such sites and how to deal with their consequences.
Consequences and Ethics of Superfund Sites
When an area is declared a superfund site and its name is put in the National Priority List, it faces serious economic, social and health consequences. Most developments in the area decline, prices of properties such as land in the area reduce, most ventures close, thereby dropping the economy (Morrissette). The neighboring communities look down upon the area and at times, can terminate any help they were providing to the area. Toxic gases pollute the air and cause respiratory and other diseases. Others that can dissolve in the soil contaminate both the soil and underground water causing health hazards to both plants and animals. If the superfund site problem is not remediated, plants and animals can greatly suffer.
Some ethical issues have to be considered when finding ways to provide solutions to the superfund problem. Risks that are extremely bad should be considered differently to risks that cause less harm. Risks that cause harm that can be reversed should also be considered differently to those whose harm cannot be reversed. Brown explains that when a certain risk can cause a very serious injury such as “death”, it should be looked at more keenly under some “ethical grounds” than those that cause less harm such as sickness.
Superfund sites are hazardous sites which are threat to both the environment and public health. Solutions to the problem include initiation and implementation of cleanup programs and public education on proper ways of disposing wastes. More research is carried out on ways of solving the problem to avoid consequences it causes, such as deaths, sickness, and social problems. If governments work closely with environmental agencies, the problem can be greatly reduced.