O Superfund

Illustration by jordan yee

Residents of Davis can rest a little easier now that the federal government has chipped in $5 million to accelerate cleanup of the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund site, located on County Road 32A, a stone’s throw away from the El Macero Estates. The funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 recently passed by Congress and approved by President Barack Obama, and offered yet more evidence that the new administration intends to reverse the destructive environmental policies of its predecessor. There’s much work to be done. According to the Center for Public Integrity, new startups for Superfund projects during the Clinton administration were nearly three times higher than they were under the Bush-run Environmental Protection Agency.

Auntie Ruth knows what younger readers are thinking: What the heck is the Superfund program? Congress created the EPA-administered program in 1980 to clean up thousands of large-scale hazardous-waste sites across the country. It has never been fully funded and is years behind schedule. That’s bad news for Sacramento area residents, since five of the sites classified as the most dangerous in the nation by the EPA are in our region: Aerojet in Rancho Cordova, Frontier Fertilizer in Davis, the Lava Cap Mine in Nevada City, Mather Air Force Base and McClellan Air Force Base. Problems range from toxic groundwater migration at Aerojet to groundwater, air and soil contamination at McClellan. Fortunately, “human exposure” to contaminants has been controlled at all of the sites except Lava Cap Mine.

Not all of the news is bad at the Center for Public Integrity’s informative Superfund Web site, located at http://projects.publicintegrity.org/superfund. In fact, Auntie was delighted to discover Jibboom Junkyard, located at the defunct downtown Sacramento rail yard, has been taken off the EPA’s Superfund list. Most of the contaminated soil has been shipped to Utah, the land has been graded over, and a new park has miraculously appeared just west of Seventh Street. An enormous project that seemed like it would be never be completed is now virtually done. Yes, we can? Yes, we did!