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PR BROWNER VISITS PHILADELPHIA SITE TO SHOW SUCCESS OF ADMINISTRATION'S SUPERFUND REFORMS

Release Date: 12/10/97
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Wednesday, Dec. 10, 1997

BROWNER VISITS PHILADELPHIA SITE TO SHOW SUCCESS OF ADMINISTRATION'S SUPERFUND REFORMS

U.S. EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner today cited the completion of cleanup at Philadelphia’s Publicker Superfund site as a symbol of the Clinton Administration’s progress in making the toxic-waste cleanup program work fairer, faster and more cost effectively to protect community health and restore contaminated sites for productive use. Browner, joined by Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and U.S. Representative Robert Borski (D-Pa.), also called on Congress to make more improvements in the program through legislative changes.
Under a broad series of reforms by the Administration, more than twice as many Superfund sites were cleaned up in the past five years than in the previous 12 years of the program. Completion of the Philadelphia site, known as Publicker Industries, marks the 500th cleanup and moves the program closer to the President's goal of completing 900 cleanups by the end of the year 2000.

"Under the reforms taken by the Clinton Administration," said Browner, "the Superfund program is finally working to protect the health of the 70 million Americans, including 10 million children, who live near toxic-waste sites. At the same time, we have made Superfund more fair by removing thousands of individuals and small businesses from any liability and making sure that the cost of cleanup is picked up by the big polluters who made the mess.

"Despite the progress we've made through improved management of the program," Browner added, "we still need significant reforms in the Superfund law itself. Those reforms must come from Congress, and we will continue to work with them to achieve the improvements that are still needed."

Through a cooperative partnership involving Philadelphia, Pa., and the current land owners, the once contaminated Publicker Industries site visited today by Browner now will be able to create hundreds of new jobs by becoming part of the Port of Philadelphia expansion project, a multi-purpose shipping terminal. Under a 1994 agreement, Delaware Avenue Enterprises Inc., Cresmont Limited Partnership and Holt Cargo Systems Inc. acquired the property for redevelopment and performed some of the final cleanup activities.

The Publicker Industries Superfund Site was one of the nation’s first sites to use a Prospective Purchaser Agreement, which was developed as part of EPA’s Administrative Reforms of the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program. As part of the Removing Liability Barrier Reforms, these agreements encourage cleanup and redevelopment of hazardous waste sites by protecting purchasers from Superfund liability for pre-existing contamination.

EPA to date has signed 68 agreements like the Publicker Industries agreement to expedite cleanup and economic redevelopment of contaminated properties throughout the nation, and will be signing many more in the future.

“This is a prime example of government’s ability to improve our environment while encouraging business development,” said Congressman Borski, the ranking minority member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, which is responsible for Superfund reauthorization.

“If we are to encourage businesses to purchase contaminated sites, we must make these sites more desirable for purchase. By resolving the liability issue, businesses are more willing to reinvest in the property. Reinvestment means new jobs, new growth and a renewed commitment to economic development which are all pluses for communities which surround contaminated sites.”

Additionally under these administrative reforms, EPA has removed more than 14,000 small polluters from the liability system -- 66 percent in the last four years -- to ensure that the "small guy" does not get stuck with the tab for cleanup; and through improved enforcement against big polluters, better selection of cleanup remedies, and the use of advanced technology, the Agency has saved taxpayers more than $14 billion in cleanup costs.

Browner said needed changes by Congress in the Superfund law must:

--Build on the progress achieved under the Administration's reforms;

--Protect people and the environment, operate cost-effectively and foster the return of contaminated lands to economically productive use;

--Hold large polluters responsible for cleanup while making sure that small polluters are not unfairly held liable;

--And encourage full citizen participation and the involvement of all levels of government in cleanup efforts.

The 40-acre Publicker Industries site was an alcohol distillation processor that allowed some of its tanks to store fuel hazardous materials for other companies during the late 1970s. Two million gallons of toxic wastes were found on the site when the facility was abandoned. Browner visited the site, at which cleanup has been completed and economic redevelopment has now begun, on the eve of the 17th anniversary of the Superfund law.

R-171 ###