DQA Stalls Superfund Cleanup
by Guest Blogger, 1/25/2005
In another case of how the DQA delays and derails important health, safety and environmental actions, EPA announced it will delay the listing decision of a National Priority Listing (NPL) site because of a data quality request submitted by Greenberg Traurig LLP on behalf of NPC Services Inc. Greenberg Traurig is the same law firm that filed the appeal on behalf of the Salt Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the salt challenge. The proposed Superfund site is Devil's Swamp Lake in Louisiana, located in an area many refer to as "Cancer Alley" because of the high incidences of cancer in the area. Devil's Swamp Lake is located in the East Baton Rouge parish, and ranks in the top five worst parishes for the annual release of pollutants that include volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matters. Devil's Swamp Lake is contaminated with high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have also contaminated wetlands and fisheries downstream of the site. The data quality request submitted Aug. 31, 2004 asks for the underlying data and methods for several pieces of information. Additionally, the petitioner requests the agency remove information from several documents because EPA does not reference one particular report. The petitioner is currently responsible for the remediation of an adjacent site --the Petro Processors Site-- and does not want to be accountable for any cleanup at Devil's Swamp Lake if it becomes a Superfund site. EPA's response to the petition states that the agency is not considering the petition as a data quality request, as it was submitted during a comment period for the proposed listing. Despite this, the agency delayed the listing because of the issues raised in the data quality challenge. The Center for Progressive Regulation (CPR) sent EPA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) letters Jan. 14 asking for the immediate listing of the site on the NPL. CPR pointed to this move by EPA as a clear example of how the DQA is used by regulated industries to interfere in the regulatory process. CPR also asked that both agencies change the data quality guidance so that it does not apply to rulemakings.