WASHINGTON,  D.C.  20460

July 22, 1998

Hon. Carol M. Browner
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Ms. Browner:

In a recent speech you said:

[W]e have kept faith with the original promise of the Superfund law -- protect public health and the environment first-- and ensure that, wherever possible and appropriate, those responsible for polluting a site, and not the taxpayers, will be held responsible for the costs of cleaning it up.(1)
In charging the polluters with the responsibility for cleaning up their own mess, you reiterated the pledge made to the American people by Congress and past administrations. Nevertheless there appears to be a trend in Superfund cleanups of letting the polluters go free while the victims are made to pay. And this is taking place with the full knowledge and cooperation of EPA personnel.

The case in point is the Tippecanoe Sanitary Landfill in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, a Superfund site on the EPA National Priority List.

In 1979, ALCOA, Lafayette, Indiana, advised the State that its aluminum-lime sludge, which had been hauled to the site since 1973, had been found to contain significant levels of PCBs. Disposal of the sludge ceased, but considerable quantities had already been deposited at the site.

In December 1983, the Indiana State Board of Health found that a nearby well contained PCBs and acetone, as well as lead and cadmium, at levels exceeding Federal primary drinking water standards. An estimated 81,000 people obtain drinking water from public and private wells within 3 miles of the site.(2)
Thirty-five Potentially Responsible Parties were identified by EPA(3) including such well known corporations as:
  • Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA)

  • Purdue University

  • TRW Inc.

  • Cargill Co.

  • Catepillar Inc.

  • CSX Transportation

  • Phillips Components

  • General Telephone Co.

  • Allen Bradley Company Inc.

  • Indiana Gas Company, Inc.

  • Public Service Company of Indiana, Inc.

  • Great Lakes Chemical Corporation.
  • Nineteen of these formed the Tippecanoe Sanitary Landfill Potentially Responsible Parties Group and through some remarkable finagling were able to get the Indiana State Legislature to pass a law which allowed the formation of the Tippecanoe Income Tax Council which in turn taxed the income of the private citizens of Tippecanoe County for the entire cost of the cleanup. The big corporations did not pay one cent toward the cost of site remediation.

    The citizens of Tippecanoe County are not alone. I have also learned that at the Kysor Industrial Corp. Superfund site in Cadillac, Michigan, the local citizens have been taxed to help cleanup a purely industrial pollution problem.

    Close in time to when you were telling the public that the Clinton Administration was "making sure that the cost of cleanup is picked up by the big polluters who made the mess"(4) EPA was telling the citizens of Tippecanoe County that

    EPA does not dictate how the group of PRPs (potentially responsible parties) is to obtain the funds that it will use to pay for its share of the work. The tax that has been imposed on the local taxpayers was something that was brought about by one or more of the local government bodies. USEPA cannot prevent this method of financing from being used. [Emphasis added.](5)
    Clearly one or the other of these two statements is false. I hope and I trust it is the later. I know you cannot be aware of every decision made in this vast organization so I have brought this to your attention in the hope that you will halt this dangerous trend which violates the spirit if not the letter of the law and makes a mockery of the administration's assurances.

    Sincerely yours,
    William Sanjour

    cc: EPA Inspector General
         Jeff Symmes

    1. Carol M. Browner, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Remarks Prepared for Delivery, 500th Construction Completion Site Celebration Publicker Industries Superfund Site Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 10, 1997.

    2. USEPA National Priority List Site Narrative for the Tippecanoe Sanitary Landfill, Inc., August 30, 1990.

    3. Richard C. Karl, Chief IL/IN Remedial Response Branch, USEPA Region 5, letter to Potentialy Responsible Parties, July 13, 1992.

    4. USEPA Headquarters press release of December 10, 1997.

    5. William E. Muno, Superfund Division Director, USEPA Region 5, Record of Decision for the Tippecanoe Sanitary Landfill Site, September 30, 1997.

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