With Superfund Trust Gone, Delaware Delegation Pushes to Keep Metachem Clean-up on Schedule

Wilmington, DE — Faced with the reality of dwindling federal resources for environmental clean-ups, U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and Tom Carper (D-DE) and Congressman Mike Castle (R-DE) today urged the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue working with state officials to remove dangerous and toxic chemicals from a vacant chemical plant in Delaware City, DE. In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the Delegation argued that failure to fully fund the ongoing clean-up at the former Metachem site would hinder efforts to begin implementing remediation measures – the next step in the clean-up process. Text of the letter follows: “We are writing to you regarding funding issues related to the ongoing cleanup efforts at the Standard Chlorine of Delaware (a.k.a. Metachem) Superfund site located in Delaware City, Delaware. “As we have previously stated, we are appreciative of the priority the EPA has placed on cleaning up the site to date, and have been impressed with both the EPA and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) prompt response in taking over these duties when Metachem Products, LLC declared bankruptcy and abandoned the property in the Spring of 2002. Literally, millions of gallons of dangerous and toxic chlorobenzene compounds were present at the site when the cleanup began and, thus far, the EPA has spent approximately $23 million and DNREC $5 million in removing these harmful substances. “However, we are concerned that funding may not continue to be available as you move forward with implementing remediation at the site. As you know, in past years, funding for Superfund sites would have been provided through the Superfund Trust Fund, a user fee once imposed on industry that is no longer collected, and whose funds are now depleted. With this funding source no longer available, monies for cleanups are now being supplied through the U.S. Treasury’s general fund. Because the Superfund Trust is no longer a viable funding source, sites where no principal responsible party can be found, or that have no financial means to pay, must compete with other sites for monies out of the general fund. In recent years, cleanups at many sites across the nation have been stalled due to the lack of sufficient funding made available for this program. “It is our understanding that shortly the EPA and DNREC will be moving into the remedial stage of the cleanup at the Standard Chlorine site and funding will be needed to begin this phase of the project. For FY05, $9.2 million has been requested to dispose of some of the remaining chemicals on site, and to begin constructing a barrier wall and implementing a pump and treat system to address groundwater contamination. It is imperative that this funding be made available this year so the cleanup of Standard Chlorine can continue and, ultimately, no longer pose a threat to the community and the region. “Thank you for your consideration of our request. We look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.”