In the contemporary political sphere, calls to reform the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) often come from politicians on the far right. For such right-wingers, reforming the EPA means draining the agency of funding, killing its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that the "job-killing" agency stays out of the way of corporate polluters. Such attacks are reactionary and promote the falsehood that Big Business is the cornerstone of environmental morality. Unfortunately, without any dictate from Congressional Republicans, the EPA is already well on its way to doing what industries demand. Let's be clear: the Environmental Protection Agency is not meant to serve the institutions that it is supposed to regulate. So yes, the EPA is in dire need of reform, but the agency must be reformed to uphold its mission of safeguarding the environment and human health, not to promote the agendas of industry.
Left alone, the agency will continue down a deteriorating path of corporate servitude and lackluster implementation of environmental laws.
Here's why: In my hometown of Asheville, N.C., CTS Corporation ran an electroplating facility from 1959 until 1986. The company, currently headquartered in Elkhart, Ind., used the degreasing chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) in its processes, and dumped the leftover solvent into the ground. According to the Centers for Disease Control, TCE is a human carcinogen and is known to damage the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems.
Though the EPA was well aware of the contamination at the site, the agency removed the site from its Superfund inventory, a list of sites known to be polluted by industrial contaminants in 1995. The agency continued to do nothing until 1999, when one woman's well tested at 7000 times the legal limit of TCE. Its inaction allowed dozens of people to fall prey to the adverse effects of TCE and even led to the development of a multi-million-dollar subdivision on CTS Corporation's contaminated property.
At its best, the EPA has defended the community's efforts against CTS Corporation and has provided municipal water to a few people whose wells have been contaminated. At its worst, however, the agency has actively promoted the agendas of polluters and attacked the very human beings who are being afflicted by the contamination.
Every day that the EPA does nothing, the contamination continues to spread, threatening not only people's wells but their health and safety as well.
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