The National Priorities List is meant to designate contaminated sites as dangerous for human or environmental health and to propose a plan for cleanup and restoration. There are two means of paying for the cleanup. If responsible parties are unknown the funds come from special government allocations. If the responsible parties can be proven, a lengthy legal battle generally follows where the government attempts to force the parties to pay for the cleanup. The Gowanus Canal falls into the latter category and opponents of the Superfund designation — namely Mayor Bloomberg — asserted that government process takes too long and that the city could clean the canal quicker. Others — namely developers looking to cash in on the barren land around the canal — didn’t want a designation or cleanup for fear of the stigma being attached to their projects.
Now Bloomberg has lost and must turn over his plans for cleanup to the government. Of the 1,610 hazardous waste sites added to the NPL since its implementation in 1980, 341 of the sites have been totally rehabilitated and were removed from the list. Though the EPA does state that being added to the NPL commences a long term cleanup process, we’re wondering how “long term” this cleanup is going to be.