msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/8/2004 3:48:29 PM ET 2004-03-08T20:48:29

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday proposed adding another 11 sites to its Superfund program for cleaning up the nation’s worst toxic waste contamination. Environmental groups, however, were not ready to pat the administration on the back, stating instead that more should have been proposed.

The proposed sites range from lead mine wastes threatening downstream fisheries to an unknown source of drinking well contamination for thousands of people.

They are located in nine states — Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia — and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

EPA officials said the problems found at these sites exemplify a recent trend in the program handling bigger, costlier and more complex cleanups.

“They are the worst of the worst, the real turkeys that the states don’t want to touch,” said Randolph Dietz, an attorney adviser for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, which oversees the Superfund program.

Environmentalists, however, weren't convinced. "The Bush administration has quashed the importance of this announcement by refusing to support the polluter-pays principle," said Sierra Club director Carl Pope, referring to the administration's refusal to ask Congress to renew a cleanup fee on polluting companies.

And the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said the Bush administration has fallen far behind the cleanup pace set by the Clinton administration.  "... EPA is listing fewer sites," said staffer Julie Wolk, "and even those sites that are listed will not have enough money for cleanup."

"Congress should reinstate Superfund's polluter pays fees, re-fund the program, and start listing and cleaning up more toxic waste sites," Wolk said, noting that the Senate is discussing just that this week.

Since the Superfund program began in 1980, the EPA has completed cleanups at almost 900 sites but has 1,240 on its uncompleted list. Adding the 11 new sites and others that have been proposed, would bring the total to more than 1,300, said Thomas Dunne, the office’s associate assistant administrator.

The new sites are listed by EPA as: Jacobsville Neighborhood Soil Contamination in Evansville, Ind.; Devil’s Swamp in Scotlandville, La.; Annapolis Lead Mine in Annapolis, Mo.; Picayune Wood Treating in Picayune, Miss.; Grants Chlorinated Solvents Plume in Grants, N.M.; Diaz Chemical Corp. in Holley, N.Y.; Peninsula Boulevard Groundwater Plume in Hewlett, N.Y.; Ryeland Road Arsenic in Heidelberg Township, Pa.; Cidra Ground Water Contamination in Cidra, Puerto Rico; Pike Hill Copper Mine in Corinth, Vt.; and Ravenswood PCE Ground Water Plume in Ravenswood, W.Va.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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