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25 years ago today, Jimmy Carter signed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, better known as Superfund, creating the Federal government's program to clean up the nation's growing and out of control hazardous waste sites. Through the Superfund program, the EPA along with numerous other private groups and organizations cleaned up abandoned, accidentally spilled, or illegally dumped hazardous waste sites that posed a risk to current and future generation’s health and the environment. There is at least one Superfund site in every State (locate a Superfund site). Thank you President Carter for the vision and personal fortitude and leadership provided in bringing this program into reality.
As a result of the Superfund legislation, the EPA developed new and innovative ways to conduct cleanups. Important research examined how contamination migrated into groundwater, and provided improved methods to treat, store, and dispose of wastes. EPA took steps to ensure that communities near hazardous sites had a strong, meaningful voice in cleanup decisions, including determining how to reuse land after a cleanup. Finally, the Superfund program pioneered methods to ensure that the parties responsible for contamination were held responsible for the cleanup as well.
Today, all of this incredible work and the rich library of information, scientific research and related materials developed and discovered will soon be lost. That is correct…lost and probably forever. Think about it, millions of dollars of federal research on the impact of chemicals on human health and the environment….gone forever. A database of over 50,000 documents available no where else eliminated or worse, destroyed. You see the present administration has decided to close all of the EPA libraries and electronic catalog…permanently! Why? To save $2.0M so that President Bush can fund EPA research for topics such as nanotechnology, air pollution and drinking water system security as part of his “American Competitive Initiative”. Now, how scientists and researchers will be able to do this work without access to the library of materials and research that already exist or might exist on the subject is a mystery to me and most EPA scientists and organizations including PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Despite these cries of foul, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and the Bush Administration plan to implement the proposed cuts and library closings immediately.
So my second ‘Thank You’ is to Carl Herrgesell, husband of Laurie Allen, Seventh Generations VP of Organizational Development. Over the weekend, Carl shared with me the Bush Administrations action on the EPA library closings. Carl had heard the news on NPR’s Science Friday’s. His story inspired me to act and post the information on our blog. Carl also shared his dilemma, “what can I, or anyone for that matter do to change this decision?” Well, Carl, you have done something, you created the will in me to share your story and concern with others.
Take action. Let your voices be heard. Contact the EPA's Office of Research and Development programs via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use their Comment Form and let them know how you feel about these library closures. It’s shortsighted and frankly just dumb.
And with that I leave you with these famous words from Margaret Mead, Anthropologist:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that does.