Booker, Menendez to Introduce Pollution Pays Legislation

Christie Duffy

New Jersey has more toxic sites than any other state in the country.

There are more than 100 of them, scattered over 20 of the state’s 21 counties.

“The most recent study that came out shows babies born to mothers living within a mile of the Superfund Site are more likely to be born with birth defects before a clean up than after a clean up,” said Senator Cory Booker.

They’re named “Superfund Sites”– after the fund the Federal Government relies on to pay for their costly clean up.

Many of these properties have been left to fester for years. Syncon Resins in Kearny used to produce resin for pigments, paints and varnish. The State and Federal Government have been trying to re-mediate the 15-acre site for over 30 years.

“This is unacceptable to me now. Knowing that there are women who are conceiving children with elevated risks of birth defects because of the lack of action, the lack of resources, the lack of funding,” said Booker.

The coffer for clean ups used to be filled with a corporate tax on all companies who deal with dangerous chemicals. That tax expired in 1995. Booker and Senator Robert Menendez say they’re planning to introduce legislation that would bring it back.

“The fund now relies on annual appropriations from Congress. Which really means, that you and I are paying for the legacies of the failures of the past,” said Menendez.

According to the EPA, tax payers have put more than $21 million into this site alone. The polluter paid less than $3 million after going bankrupt in the early 80’s.

“To finish the job at this one site we will need an additional $24 million,” said EPA Regional Director Judith Enck.

When polluters can’t pay, the Superfund is supposed to cover it.

Congress has allowed the program’s funding to drop from about $600 million to $500 million in recent years– which the EPA says is not enough.

“The cost of cleaning up hazardous waste sites like this one are staggering,” said Enck.

Tomorrow, Booker will chair an oversight hearing in Washington to address the need for more funding and faster clean ups for communities.

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