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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

500th Construction Completion Site Celebration Publicker Industries Superfund Site Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

12/10/1997
               Carol M. Browner, Administrator
             U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                               
                Remarks Prepared for Delivery
        500th Construction Completion Site Celebration
             Publicker Industries Superfund Site
                  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
                      December 10, 1997



     Thank you, Congressman Borski.  I salute you for your leadership in Congress on the
effort to rid America's neighborhoods of hazardous waste sites.  It has been a special pleasure to
work with you on this issue.  And I look forward to continuing our efforts in the days ahead.


     Mayor Rendell, thank you for welcoming us to the great city of Philadelphia.  The
progress that is taking place under your leadership -- here at this site and throughout the city --
makes Philadelphia an ideal place to observe the completion of cleanup construction at the 500th
Superfund site.


     EPA is proud to have a role in your administration's efforts to rid Philadelphia's
neighborhoods of the scourge of toxic waste -- to help them replace despair with hope, jobs and
economic development -- and to build a cleaner, brighter and more healthy future.


     The Publicker site is a symbol of the progress we've made toward our goal of cleaning up
the nation's hazardous waste sites making them vital parts of our communities once again.


     The Clinton-Gore Administration's efforts are based on the proposition that no child
should have to grow up near a toxic waste site.  No community should have to be held back by a
toxic waste site or abandoned industrial property.  Working together, we can get these sites
cleaned up.  We can set the stage for new economic growth.  We can work together to pave the
way for progress.


     And, together, we're doing just that.

     The work you see going on right here -- the completion of cleanup construction on the
Publicker Superfund site and its resurrection as a multi-purpose shipping terminal in the Port of
Philadelphia expansion project -- is a great Superfund success story -- one of many throughout the
country.


     Exactly 17 years ago tomorrow, Congress passed the Superfund law with the highest of
hopes.  Along the way, the program has had its fits and starts.


     When President Clinton, Vice President Gore and I came into office nearly five years ago,
we sought to reinvigorate the nation's hazardous waste cleanup program -- to make it faster,
fairer and more efficient -- and to enable it to live up to its original promise.


     By any measure, we are making a great deal of progress.

     We are now cleaning up more sites faster and at lower cost.

     Under our watch, some 344 Superfund sites have completed cleanup construction -- more
than twice as many as in the previous 12 years combined.


     We have taken steps to increase the fairness of the Superfund liability system and get "the
little guys" out of the litigation web that surrounds many hazardous waste sites.  In fact, the
Clinton Administration has acted to remove more than 9,000 small parties from Superfund
litigation.


     And we have kept faith with the original promise of the Superfund law -- protect public
health and the environment first-- and ensure that, wherever possible and appropriate, those
responsible for polluting a site, and not the taxpayers, will be help responsible for the costs of
cleaning it up.


     We have also sought to do more to involve local residents and their community
organizations in the cleanup process -- something we believe is critical to ensuring the ultimate
success of any cleanup.


     On that note, let me take a moment to thank Janet DiGiovanni and the Whitman Council
for their support during the cleanup at Publicker.  We simply would not be here today without the
participation of local organizations, like the Whitman Council.  Our goal is to replicate this level
of community involvement at remaining sites throughout the country.


     Finally, we have strengthened our efforts to help states, cities and communities redevelop
their brownfields -- the old, abandoned industrial sites that may not qualify for Superfund status,
but nevertheless are acting as barriers to economic progress in many of our communities.


     We have been delighted to work with you, Mayor Rendell, on efforts to redevelop these
sites here in Philadelphia.  And we are proud to work with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania --
through its Land Recycling Program -- on its commitment to return these sites to productive use
by their communities.

    Does all this progress mean that the Superfund program is perfect?  Of course not.  We
need to do more to make it as fast, as fair and as efficient as it can be.  We can certainly do more
to protect "the little guys" -- the small businesses, the Mom and Pop operations -- from becoming
unfairly entangled in Superfund litigation.


     But, to do that -- and to ensure that we can meet President Clinton's goal of completing
cleanup of another 400 sites by the end of the year 2000 -- we need to reform the Superfund law.
We are committed to working with Congress to do that.  And, again, I want to thank
Congressman Borski for his efforts to move this legislation forward and take the program to a
whole new level of effectiveness.


     When you see the payoff -- such as what we're seeing right here at the Publicker Site --
new hope, new jobs, new progress -- then you really can see the value of what we're trying to do
with the Superfund program.


     So much energy and hard work has gone into this -- to get a remedy that protects the
public health, repairs a damaged environment and helps build a strong local economy in the
process.


     Let me congratulate everyone who has worked to make this happen -- the city of
Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the regional EPA staff,
the local business and community groups and the current owner of this property -- Delaware
Avenue Enterprises -- for their work in making this the 500th site to be cleaned up under the
Superfund program.


     This is a model for success. And this community can be proud of the skill, the creativity
and the hard work it took to bring it all together.


     Thank you.