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Is our legacy pollution?

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Decades of irresponsible use and disposal of toxic chemicals have left a legacy of contaminated soil, water and air in neighborhoods throughout Utah and across the nation. Chemicals found at polluted sites are known to cause cancer, birth defects and numerous other illnesses in humans and other forms of life.

Polluters are on the verge of convincing Congress to release them from cleanup liability. Instead, the responsibility of cleanup will be passed onto taxpayers.Of more than 80,000 hazardous waste sites across the United States, 1,200 have been identified as Superfund sites. Twelve of these sites are here in Utah. The EPA estimates that an additional 1,400-plus are not on this list but should be.

The primary principle of the Superfund program is that the polluters (not taxpayers) are responsible for the mess they create. Superfund also provides funding for cleanups. Using the "polluter pays" principle creates a powerful disincentive to continue irresponsible disposal of wastes.

Instead of strengthening the necessary Superfund, polluters are working with Congress to roll back the Superfund program, targeting the "polluter pays" principle. In early 1997, Senate Bill 8 was introduced. SB8 would transfer liability for cleanup from polluters to taxpayers. It would also eliminate access to information and decrease communities' ability to participate effectively in cleanup decisions. An alternative, SB769, would expand the public's right to know about toxics being used, stored and disposed of in our communities. This bill would lead to a cleaner, safer environment by holding polluters accountable for the wastes they create.

Unfortunately, both Sen. Hatch and Sen. Bennett support SB8.

Wende Barton

Salt Lake City