EHS Administration, Regulatory Developments

National Priorities List Update

The National Priorities List (NPL) includes the most seriously contaminated Superfund sites across the nation. These sites contain uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at nonfederal sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.

One of the marks of the Biden administration has been to update the NPL twice a year rather than once annually.

On September 8, 2023, the EPA announced two sites in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are included in the most recent update to the NPL. The EPA is proposing to add the Exide Baton Rouge site to the NPL and finalizing the addition of the Capitol Lakes site to the list.

“Residents of heavily industrialized communities like Baton Rouge should not have to live with higher levels of water, air and soil contamination,” said Regional EPA Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance in an Agency news release. “With historic levels of funding through the Biden-Harris Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, sites like Capitol Lakes and Exide Baton Rouge are getting the focus they deserve to prevent harms to people’s health and the environment.”

The Capitol Lakes site encompasses three lakes in Baton Rouge—North Lake, South Lake, and East Lake—on 60 acres next to the Capitol Building and the Governor’s Mansion. Starting in the 1970s, sediments and fish tissue from the lakes have shown contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which can cause liver damage and skin conditions. Other contaminants of concern include arsenic, mercury, and lead. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality referred the site to the EPA in 2021. A fishing advisory remains in effect for the site to warn residents against consuming fish from the lakes.

The Exide Baton Rouge site is a former secondary lead smelter and refinery. The proposed NPL site covers 33 acres next to Baton Rouge Bayou. High concentrations of antimony, arsenic, lead, manganese, and zinc have been found in groundwater and soils on the site, with unlined waste piles and open surface impoundments contributing to discharges of contaminated ground and surface water. An on-site system is in place to collect and treat contaminated leachate.  The state of Louisiana referred the site to the EPA to ensure continued operation of the wastewater treatment system.

EPA is adding the following sites to the NPL:

  • Federated Metals Corp Whiting in Hammond, Indiana
  • Capitol Lakes in Baton Rouge
  • Fansteel Metals/FMRI in Muskogee, Oklahoma

EPA is proposing to add the following sites to the NPL:

  • Former Exide Technologies Laureldale in Laureldale, Pennsylvania
  • Acme Steel Coke Plant in Chicago, Illinois
  • Exide Baton Rouge in Baton Rouge
  • Lot 46 Valley Gardens TCE in Des Moines, Iowa

“EPA typically proposes sites to the [NPL] based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan,” the EPA news release continues. “The National Contingency Plan also allows each State to designate a single site as its top priority to be listed on the NPL, without the need to apply a scientific determination. The State of Oklahoma is designating the Fansteel Metals/FMRI site its top-priority site.”

See the EPA Superfund website for more information on Superfund and the NPL.

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