Bush is kryptonite to the Superfund

Two sites in Georgia, a wood treatment plant in Camilla and a chemical plant in Fort Valley, are so contaminated with toxic chemicals that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as places where human exposure poses health risks. The Fort Valley plant leaks pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and arsenic, which is known to cause cancer of the lungs, bladder and skin.

At four other sites, the EPA says toxins have contaminated nearby groundwater. Those toxic spots also have the potential to harm humans, the EPA has found.

The six sites are considered the worst of the dozens in Georgia that are eligible to receive money from the EPA's Superfund, a federal piggy bank established by the Carter administration to pay for the clean up of dangerous chemicals.

But the sites in Georgia — and more than 1,000 other sites across the country — aren't getting funding because the Bush administration no longer requires big polluters to pay into the Superfund, according to a study released by the Sierra Club on July 27.

Instead, ordinary taxpayers are shouldering the financial burden of cleaning up Superfund sites. As a result, the rate of cleanups has fallen by half since the late 1990s. Between 1993 and 2004, the amount of money going into the Superfund has decreased by 34 percent, according to the study.

The Bush administration also has proposed to exempt the Department of Defense from environmental protection laws, which would even further delay cleanups at two Superfund-eligible sites in Georgia.

A Marine Corps base in Albany is contaminating groundwater, according to the EPA, and a landfill at Robbins Air Force Base is awaiting cleanup. The EPA says it doesn't have enough data to determine if human exposure to toxins is under control there.

"Without an effective funding mechanism for Superfund cleanups, dangerous chemicals will continue to seep into Georgia's air, water and soil," says Natalie Foster, the Sierra Club's Appalachian regional representative.

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