Superfund: Cleaning America – Part 3

The Superfund has tackled the most difficult pollution and provided solutions to very complex remediation projects throughout the United States. The first two installments of this series traced the history of this program, the types of contamination, the enforcement protocols, and the spill response mandate from Congress.



This portion of the series will be dedicated entirely to my home state, New Jersey, which has the highest number of Superfund sites in the United States. The complexities of some of the politics involved in the placement of sites on the Superfund list will also be examined.


New Jersey


The State of New Jersey has the most sites listed on the Superfund system for cleanup. This number can be attributed to the abundance of manufacturing, chemical engineering, pharmaceutical, and biotech companies located in New Jersey based on its central location between New York City and Philadelphia.



The other troubling statistic for New Jersey is that it is the most densely populated state in the country. Therefore, a spill or a hazardous pollution site has the potential to impact many more lives than in other, more remote areas of the United States.


In the N.P.L. section of the EPA website you can search the sites and filter them by state. Using that website feature, I was able to determine that New Jersey has 144 sites listed on the N.P.L. which is a staggering statistic (


In a recent report made available through the Freedom of Information Act (F.O.I.A.) the State of New Jersey could have 27 more sites which are toxic that could have qualified for the Superfund program and are not on the list.



The most notorious site which remains missing from the list in New Jersey for Superfund cleanup is the former DuPont site in Pompton Lakes. The EPA has confirmed that the company’s practices have contaminated the ground water, soil, sediment, and surface water at the site (



The pollution present at the former DuPont site threatens an area containing approximately 400 homes, where reports of illness from families breathing in toxic vapors from the contaminated groundwater seeping into their basement have become increasingly problematic.


Governor Christie has maintained that the state Department of Environmental Protection (D.E.P.) will continue to work on the cleanup efforts at the site. The Governor has stated that many sites on the Superfund list sit for years without being adequately addressed (


However, the head of the Sierra Club in New Jersey, Jeff Tittel, counters the Governor’s assessment by stating that the state program has been in charge of the site for years and nothing has been done to address the major issues there, that it is a prime candidate for Superfund remediation.


The EPA statement to the media when the inquiry was made about the Pompton Lakes site being overlooked for Superfund status intimated that the site was too small for inclusion in the program. The site is estimated to be anywhere from 540 to 570 acres in size; which has the environmental groups and residential groups in that area in an uproar (


In the meantime, New Jersey has been awarded $160 million in federal funding via the stimulus package directed toward 8 Superfund sites in the state ( This proves that the federal government is aware and concerned about the pace of the cleanup efforts of the numerous polluted sites in New Jersey.


In addition, New Jersey has two other sites being proposed for inclusion on the N.P.L. at this point: Route 561 Dump Site in Gibbsboro and the Mansfield Trail Dump in Byram.


These overlooked toxic sites have been a source of great concern for residents in New Jersey. The debate continues on whether or not the sites should require EPA assistance in order to remediate properly versus the ramifications of having the environmental program run by the state government be responsible for those areas.



According to the website, NJ, there are concerns from the environmental groups that the state program is concerned more about the redevelopment of the land than the complete remediation of the pollution at these sites. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups cite the more strict standards of cleanup required by the Superfund as the rationale for why the DuPont site should be under the EPA jurisdiction.


In fact, New Jersey has privatized its hazardous waste cleanup program which allows for more cost conscious remediation work and less public scrutiny of the program ( The New Jersey D.E.P. has also introduced a program called the Licensed Site Remediation Program which would use private contractors hired by the polluters or P.R.Ps to clean up the waste sites. This program has also met with strong opposition from the environmental groups in the state.


The prevailing question from the environmental groups in regard to this program is: how can the public be assured that the cleanup process is done correctly and thoroughly with limited government oversight?


The other issue I see in this approach by New Jersey is it does not address how the cleanup of a site would be achieved in the event that the corporation or entity involved in the pollution on the site is now bankrupt or no longer exists. In that case, who would be responsible for hiring the private contractors to clean up the site?


The new order of the day from the Christie Administration is to limit state government expenditures and maintain balanced budgets, so in that scenario, the state government would not cover the costs of the expenses to remediate the site. I would have to assume that the site would end up on the Superfund list anyway for the federal government to clean up the hazardous material.


The other point worth mentioning here is that other states have gone to a similar model to the one used in New Jersey to deal with the cleanup of contaminated sites. The net result of this shift could be a changing role in the future for the EPA with regard to environmental contamination cleanup, but that remains to be seen.


One of the most polluted sites in New Jersey at one point was the Imperial Oil site in Morganville. It first became listed on the Superfund in 1983, which is a strong indication of the level of contamination at that location at one point in time.


The EPA, through Superfund, has removed 25,000 gallons of contaminated oil from the 15 acre site ( The project also provided for the cleanup of four other properties which are residential and located adjacent to the Imperial Oil site.


According to the U.S. government, there are 406,326 people living within 10 miles of the site ( That potential for potential public health risk to a huge number of people is a driving force behind the importance of cleaning this site properly and thoroughly.


The Imperial Oil cleanup project received $33.4 million in Recovery Act funds to treat the contaminated soil on the site which is threat to the groundwater supply located beneath the site ( The soil will then be tested over a very long period of time to measure the effectiveness of the remediation work done there.


The safe cleanup of the Imperial Oil site is a case study in the success that the Superfund protocols can achieve when the process is allowed to move from start to finish. That location featured some complex environmental remediation problems, and the EPA was able to find solutions to those issues and move the project forward to the final stages of soil sediment cleaning.

The next installment of this series will explore the criticisms of Superfund which have manifested over the years. It will also take an in-depth view of one of the worst pollution areas the program has ever faced, the Gowanus Canal site in Brooklyn.


Superfund: Cleaning America – Part 2

This next installment of the series on the Superfund program will describe the methods of enforcement utilized by the EPA to ensure that the proper parties pay for the damage. The types of contamination will be detailed and explained, the role of community involvement in the Superfund process will be explored, and the important steps regarding spill response will also be covered.




The EPA has a number of viable avenues for enforcing the proper cleanup of a particular Superfund site. The EPA begins the process by finding the companies or the people that are responsible for the contamination or spill in order to determine whether the cleanup will be conducted by the EPA, a state government agency, or another party.


In some cases, the party responsible may not agree on the decision of the EPA regarding their role in the cleanup process. The EPA response would be to issue an order to get the work done. The EPA can, at the same time, coordinate with the Department of Justice to pursue the responsible party through the federal court system.


In the event that the responsible party handles the cleanup themselves, or contracts out for a company to handle the site cleanup, and the EPA finds that company to be out of compliance they can take action. In that circumstance the EPA can refer to the Department of Justice for enforcement, to assess penalties, and/or take over the work of remediating the site.


The term used by the Superfund to define those involved with a hazardous site is Potentially Responsible Parties (PRP). The EPA utilizes a variety of methods to gather evidence regarding PRPs and their connection to a particular site. They use evidence to match the waste at a site to potential contributors (


The EPA also uses the following steps, according to their web site when dealing with PRP:

  • Review documents
  • Interviews
  • Site investigation and sampling
  • Title searches


When the appropriate PRP is identified, then the EPA takes the following steps:

  • Nature of involvement
  • Party’s potential defense
  • Applicable exemption
  • Amount of waste contributed
  • How much the party can pay (


In the case that a PRP has gone through bankruptcy proceedings or is in the process of declaring bankruptcy, the EPA would file paperwork through legal channels to be listed as a creditor. The EPA would receive money based on the bankruptcy settlement, or would receive money from the company should it emerge from bankruptcy protection until the remediation costs have been reconciled.


In recent years, corporations, especially larger corporations, have been increasingly resistant to paying for the environmental cleanup costs based on their industrial or business activity on specific sites throughout the United States. These corporate PRPs have been more diligent in their legal defenses trying to find a third party avenue, or some other pathway legally to circumvent payment for the damages their corporate activity potentially caused to the environment.


The EPA, has continued to pursue these PRP corporations and challenged their various legal actions to force them to meet the burden of proof regarding the potential for environmental damage caused by their business activity. The EPA has stated in various materials available to the public that they are compelled by a legal obligation to the American taxpayer to ensure that these corporations pay or reimburse the EPA for the damages caused by the pollution to the environment.


Types of contamination


The Superfund website has an entire section to reference on what the EPA would term as “Environmental Media Contamination” and that can include the following:

  • Sediments
  • Ground water
  • Soil
  • Air
  • Adverse effect on humans, animals, and plants
  • Vapor Intrusions – volatile chemicals from buried waste/ contaminated ground water emit vapors into the air space of office buildings or homes



Superfund treats each of these circumstances under specific protocols for contaminated sediments, ground water, and soil. In NPL sites where the land will usually have a residential use in the future, an intensive amount of soil screening takes place during the remediation and cleanup process.



Community Involvement


The EPA has numerous ways in which it provides the community with the opportunity to provide feedback and input to the cleanup efforts on a respective project site.



In fact, community involvement is valued at the EPA and encouraged by their representatives throughout the process ( During the remediation phase of a cleanup project, the agency appoints a Community Involvement Coordinator. This individual becomes the key person for the gathering and utilization of the input from the surrounding community.



The most influential use of community involvement is handling the input involving the future uses of a site. The residents of the respective community generally have very strong feelings about this issue, and the EPA is very sensitive to those feelings.



If the community wishes to have the land used for recreational functions for example, then the EPA will look to incorporate that feedback into the future plans for the site.



The Community Involvement Coordinator will also provide the details for informational meetings which are open to the members of the residential area surrounding the site. These meetings are an additional way for the community and the EPA to share ideas and gather feedback to move forward on the rehabilitation of a hazardous site.



Spill response


Another function of the Superfund is to potentially respond to an oil or fuel spill or hazardous substance spill or accidental release.


In all of these scenarios the Superfund will use the National Contingency Plan (NCP) protocols for containing and remediating the spill or accidental release of the potentially dangerous substance.



This role of the EPA via the Superfund legislation is a critical component of the agency and Congress has broadened the scope of the EPA beyond the Clean Water Act to include the response to oil, fuel, chemicals, and other materials designated as hazardous substances.



The NCP also has a Product Schedule which maintains rigorous standards. The products listed on this document are the only products which the EPA can use in response to an incident of this type.



It is important to note that the EPA, through the Superfund spill response mandate has responded to several major spills involving hazardous contaminants since Congress expanded their role in this area. The involvement of the Superfund response protocols have been integral in the protection of our natural resources in these scenarios.



The next part in this series will focus on my home state, New Jersey, which has the dubious distinction of having the most Superfund sites of any state. The current status involving some of the sites located there, the involvement of a new state-funded site cleanup program, and the controversy surrounding some areas which have not been listed on the Superfund program will be examined.


Superfund: Cleaning America – Part 1

The Superfund cleanup process provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to oversee the elimination of pollution and potentially hazardous waste from sites throughout the United States. The program tackles the worst and most polluted or contaminated sites in our country.


The impetus for the Superfund was provided by the public reaction to the Love Canal environmental crisis in upstate New York. The Love Canal was an uncompleted waterway which turned into a chemical wasteland ( The site was sold in 1953 to a school district for one dollar accompanied by paperwork regarding the chemicals that were dumped there for so many years.


Despite the knowledge of the chemicals in the ground, the school was built on that site, and over time, neighborhoods filled in around the school. Then, 35 years ago, around 1978, people in that area got very sick, the contaminants began seeping into homes, and even miscarriages were being reported ( The New York State government and the Federal government declared the area an environmental emergency and dealt with the relocation of 239 families.


Then, in 1980, the government purchased the homes of 500 families who sought relocation out of that area. The public pressure was mounting on the federal government to take action. In response, the U.S. Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 which became known as the Superfund (


Setup and mandate


The EPA set up Superfund by dividing the United States into 10 regions in order to more efficiently review all of the potentially hazardous sites. The mandate of the Superfund has evolved over time but according to the EPA website it is:


  • Conduct removal activities
  • Enforce against responsible parties
  • Ensure community involvement
  • Involve the state governments
  • Ensure long-term protectiveness


The Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) has oversight responsibility for the Superfund program ( The process of designating a potentially hazardous site into a Superfund site for cleanup and remediation has numerous and very particular steps, so the proper oversight protocols are critically important.


Cleanup Process


The first step of the process is the site discovery, which can be made by a variety of potential parties from individuals, groups, local government employees, state agencies, or regional EPA officials.


The data from the site is entered into a computerized inventory of the released substances. Then, based on the types of hazardous materials or pollutants present, and the levels of those harmful components currently at the site, the determination is made on how to most effectively treat the polluted area.


A state agency or another permissible authority can treat a polluted site. However, if a site has very high levels of various dangerous chemicals or materials, then the EPA will get involved in the cleanup process.


Once an area is designated a Superfund site, it can be approached in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the contamination level of the respective site.  The polluted area could be worked on over a long period of time, or it could be remediated in a very rapid time frame.


The cleanup process steps are as follows (courtesy of

  • Preliminary Assessment
  • Site Inspection ( this determines the level of severity and response time)
  • Emergency Response
  • National Priority List (N.P.L.) the most serious sites are designated here
  • Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study
  • Records of Decision- explains cleanup alternatives (if it exceeds $25 million it goes to National Remedy Review Board)
  • Remedial Design/Remedial Action (Preparation and Implementation of Plans and Specifications for site remedies) Bulk of remediation/cleanup is done in this phase
  • Construction Completion
  • Post Construction Completion
  • N.P.L. Delete
  • Site Reuse/Redevelopment


The Emergency Response situation has to do most often with the following:

  • Abandoned Chemicals
  • Community Access
  • Chemical Spill Response
  • Oil Spill Response


The sites and the corresponding data are entered into the C.E.R.C.L.I.S. database where it can be searched and accessed by the general public, the media, and various other entities (  The information is listed in terms which are easy to understand and the system does not use technical terminology.


Hazard Ranking System and the N.P.L.


The EPA uses an entirely separate criteria to deal with the most serious and potentially dangerous sites within Superfund. Those sites are put on the National Priority List (N.P.L.) through a particular protocol.


The Hazard Ranking System (H.R.S.) is the criteria used to place sites on the N.P.L. and it includes:

  • Numerically based investigations
  • Preliminary assessment
  • Site inspection


It is important to note that any person or group can request the EPA to carry out a preliminary assessment of a site by completing a Preliminary Assessment Petition ( If the scoring total deems a site is needed for listing on the N.P.L. then a more detailed inspection is conducted via the remedial listing – feasibility study which takes place after the site is listed.


In addition, the H.R.S. method of scoring sites is achieved by designating numerical values to certain risk factors at the site. Those risk factors are split into 3 groups as per the EPA website:


  1. The likelihood the site has released or has the potential to release hazardous substances into the environment.
  2. The characteristics of the waste involved (toxicity levels, amounts of waste in the ground)
  3. The people or the sensitive environmental components affected by the release or potential release of hazardous substances



The H.R.S. has four pathways which are scored:


  1. Ground water migration (drinking water)
  2. Surface water migration (drinking water, human food chain, sensitive environmental factors)
  3. Soil exposure ( resident population, nearby population, sensitive environments)
  4.  Air migration ( population, sensitive environments)



The inclusion on the N.P.L. can also be a decision that is made by a single pathway. The rationale being if that one pathway is deemed a critical threat to the water supply, the food chain, or the resident population; then the score will be high enough to place it on the N.P.L. in order to adequately address the pollutant source.


The next part of this series will focus on the enforcement measures used by the EPA, the types of contamination at a given site, and the involvement of the community in the site cleanup process.

Dangerous Marketing: U.S. Energy Supplements

The U.S. energy supplement market represents big dollars for the companies involved not only from a manufacturing and distribution perspective but for the suppliers of the ingredients for their respective formulations. We are all familiar with the seemingly constant stream of commercials and late-night TV infomercials on these energy products.


The rapid success of some of these products is driven by the large scale marketing campaigns to create demand among a range of American consumer groups. Some of the promotional activity in the energy supplement market focuses on the “clinical trial data” and might feature a sound bite from a doctor or someone in the medical community endorsing the effectiveness of the product.



Oregon’s energy supplement battle


The State of Oregon has been involved in legal action against the makers of the energy supplement 5 Hour Energy due to a mounting number of adverse events allegedly linked to the consumption of the product.


The FDA has reports of such adverse events as spontaneous abortions, heart attacks, and 11 fatalities which involve people who regularly used the energy supplement. The State of Oregon decided that they needed to take legal action against the manufacturer of the product, and during the course of the process they requested data on the ingredients in 5 Hour Energy.


The manufacturer of the product responded by sending a list of ingredients with the specific amounts redacted from the documents. A judge recently ordered the manufacturer of this supplement to produce the documents with the specific amounts of the ingredients disclosed for the Oregon Department of Justice by February 15th.


The main issue here is that the regulatory process on a vitamin or energy supplement is much different than the regulations on a food or a drink. The FDA has a far more stringent policy for the submission of a new food product than the process which exists for vitamin or energy supplements. The energy beverages such as 5 Hour Energy are considered dietary supplements and are not held to the more stringent standards of a traditional beverage product.


In light of the alleged case against 5 Hour Energy and other similar supplements the testing and approval process for these products needs to be revamped. The increased pressure from the court of American public opinion could accelerate those changes in 2014.


Across the spectrum


The use of energy drinks and energy supplements is prevalent across the spectrum of ages and demographics. In a study by The Journal of Nutrition it was noted that of all the sugary drinks consumed by teens and children, 8.8% of those beverages consumed were energy drinks.


In a related report from Packaged Facts, the consumption of energy beverages by ‘’Baby Boomers” was correlated based on sales data which indicated a sharp increase in sales of 5 Hour Energy to that demographic. The report continued by noting that “Baby Boomers” represent 2/3 of the U.S. population, have enormous spending power, and are seeking energy boosts to maintain an active lifestyle.

The potentially dangerous effects of consuming these energy beverages or supplements has resulted in increasingly high incidences of health related adverse events. In fact, a study by the Department of Health & Human Services (H.H.S.) reported that hospital emergency room visits concerning the consumption of energy drinks doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 from 2007 to 2011 (

In fair balance, it is also largely unknown how many cases regarding these medical incidents may be caused by misuse of the supplement or overconsumption of the energy drinks in question. In that case, then the labels of the products need to have clearer directions listed for the safe use of the product, and warnings should be more explicit on the potentially harmful effects caused by overindulgence in the product.

However, in either case, a resolution needs to be formulated to address this situation before the incidences increase in proportion to the consumer population involved.

Multi-faceted solution


The dangers stemming from the consumption of energy beverages or similar energy supplement products are becoming too big to ignore. Some of the companies involved are reportedly concerned that the continued stream of negative news regarding these products could threaten to damper the growth of this industry segment.


The solution, given my experience in the food industry, should be a multi-faceted approach where the F.D.A. as well as Congress and other entities work together to increase awareness of the potential adverse effects associated with these energy supplements.


The F.D.A. should continue to issue warnings to the manufacturers of these types of energy products. Congress should work to find a way to close the loophole and provide the F.D.A. with the proper pathways to exert better oversight over the regulations to better safeguard the manufacturing of these products.


The judicial system can get involved on the state level to advocate for the consumer regarding the ingredients involved in these energy supplements, and the case in Oregon will go a long way in determining how these matters will be addressed by the courts in the future.


A public service campaign geared toward all demographics is needed to raise awareness of the potential side effects from these types of products.


Finally, the manufacturers themselves could help their own cause by being forthright with the data requested, and by being more transparent.  If all of these entities worked together, and the right level of awareness about the consumption and correct use of these products was communicated, then these types of medical events could be potentially avoided in the future.


Link to my article for UPI

I recently had another feature published by United Press International (UPI) for their Outside View Commentary section. Please see the link below to be taken to the article, it was on U.S. Food Safety:


Thank you for your continued support of my blog, and I will have more to come very soon!

Television Wars: The Future of Home Entertainment

The rapid technological advancements in the mass media are causing a shift in the way in which the general public will utilize their home entertainment. The advent of Apple TV changed the landscape when it hit the market, and other streaming services and content providers are looking to continue to shape the market in the future.


In order to compete in the marketplace with Apple, Google launched their own product, Google TV, back in October 2010. In the years since then, the number of content providers and subscription services for the distribution of television programs and movies exploded. Google has since renamed their product after their “Chrome” product platform.


Now the landscape is crowded with systems such as Aveo, Roku, and Slingbox as well as subscription content providers in Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Direct Video. These products and services coupled with the telecom companies’ movement into the television market with products such as Verizon’s FIOS, and AT&T’s UVerse, and the television wars have officially begun.


All of this content is transmitted by a signal today, and these companies and service providers are going to compete for the right to send their signal to your home. It happens every day if you have cable television service through a company such as Comcast, and you receive calls and emails from Verizon trying to entice you to switch to their FIOS service.


“Binge watching”


I have written about the evolution in the medium of television in the past, but I was thinking about all of these changes again over the Christmas/ New Year’s holidays when I had some time to unwind and watch a couple of movies.


It is still incredible to me that through a service such as, Amazon Direct, you can watch whatever movie you want in their catalog, or you could “binge watch” a television series you may have never seen before from the start of the series all the way through to the end, in sequence, with no commercials.


This approach to watching a series is the new trend in television viewing, and the broadcast networks as well as the cable, satellite, and telecom providers are increasingly aware of this viewer preference. They are providing their viewers or subscribers with several different ways to “binge watch” their favorite programs through video-on-demand services, streaming of both old and new episodes on the network website, and providing access to the show via subscription content providers such as Netflix or Hulu.


This method of viewing an entire season or an entire series run of episodes is very appealing to Americans, who like the freedom to watch whatever they want, at whatever time they want to watch it. The days of “appointment TV,” when you had to be home at a certain time on a certain night because the show was something the viewer could not miss, are over. The average person is too busy today with all of the new technology and the demands of their respective careers or families for that approach to be viable anymore.


In this case the network and cable television broadcast companies got it right to capitalize on the marketing of these new platforms available to stream content and expand the viewership of their programming. These same executives have missed the mark at other points and have alienated viewers in the past. The networks, at another point in time, would have considered restricting access to their programming to their own detriment; though they continue to favor subscription services rather than Aveo and some other services that tend to provide the content for less money.


Some say the networks were smart to provide their programming content via the Internet and other platforms. However, I think they really had no choice because if they did not provide the content, they would have lost many viewers, so they did so for their own survival.


In fact, some people have already “cut the cable cord” and are using these other devices and services rather than paying for a cable or satellite service for television in their homes.


Original Programming


The other trend which will also serve to further accentuate the competition for viewers is the push toward the development of more original programming for the new age outlets such as Netflix, Amazon Direct, and Chrome TV.   The appeal for the high profile actors and actresses in Hollywood to sign on for original programs on these new formats is two-fold:

  1. The content providers have lots of cash to shell out to produce their own programming and pay the stars associated – so money is a key factor
  2. The rules for the content they can produce are different than if they did a mainstream show on a major network or a basic cable program. The rules for what they can display are similar to a series produced for a premium tier cable channel such as HBO or Showtime. That freedom from normal regulatory constraints is very compelling to certain stars to be able to work on a show that is unvarnished and bold.


Some of these programs have been successful already in their limited runs, which has only served to fill the pipeline with more concepts for future development. Netflix recently announced that they are developing original programming for children, which opens up a whole new avenue to market their service to families.  Amazon is working a few new original programming concepts as well.


The two other recent developments that have further continued this trend of original programming is the news of the Disney deal with Netflix, and the potential for exclusive sports programming moving to these new media service providers.


The Disney deal with Netflix will eventually provide for Disney movies to be available exclusively through a subscription to Netflix in probably about four years from now. However, Disney owns Marvel Studios and the rights to most of their comic book characters. Marvel and Netflix will be producing at least four original series, each focused on a single character, for release in the near future (


The recent announcement by the NFL that they are strongly considering the addition of another tier of playoffs is rumored to be driven by the strong interest and deep pockets of Apple TV and Google to land the digital rights to sporting events, particularly the NFL (


These types of digital rights deals are going to be the future of professional sports viewing as well, and it serves as another reminder that the world is rapidly changing. The business activity and marketing campaigns have also made it abundantly clear: these changes are here to stay.


In addition, as these properties continue to advance they will get monetized differently, and as some have seen with certain programs on Hulu, you will have commercial interruptions on certain programs. The advertising agencies and the networks will find ways to deliver their sponsor’s message as these services grow more prevalent in the future.


So whether you have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Direct, or all three services; I hope you enjoy the viewing options for content that they provide because in the future it is only going to get bigger and better.