April 29, 2002
Volume 80, Number 17
CENEAR 80 17 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347


Senate panel scrutinizes federal role in Anniston, Ala., cleanup


On April 19, the senate panel that holds EPA's purse strings probed the role of the federal government in cleaning up polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Anniston, Ala.

"I'm deeply troubled that Anniston families facing a health crisis have only gotten a lot of bureaucracy and paper shuffling and finger-pointing between the state and federal government instead of action to help them," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.). She chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds EPA.

TROUBLED Mikulski questions whether EPA's response to Alabama PCBs was adequate.
The pollution stems from a former Monsanto plant, now operated by Solutia, that manufactured the now-banned PCBs for 40 years in Anniston. PCBs are in the blood of many residents who live near the plant, as well as in floodplains, streambeds, and two old dumps at Solutia's plant.

The Senate panel questioned an EPA official about a proposed Superfund agreement that the agency brokered with Solutia to study and clean up the PCB contamination. State officials and community leaders are leery of the deal (C&EN, April 1, page 14; March 25, page 9).

Mikulski and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) were concerned about possible conflicts of interest by federal officials involved in the talks. An EPA official testified that Linda Fisher, second in command at EPA who was a lobbyist for Monsanto in the mid-1990s, recused herself from the negotiations. So did Jimmy Palmer, administrator of the agen-cy's southeastern regional office. When Palmer was an attorney in private practice, he represented several foundries in Anniston, many of which used PCBs in their operations.

Shelby said it was important to clear up who at EPA was--and was not--involved in the deal with Solutia. This may provide assurance to the public that the arrangement with Solutia "is not going to be a sham cleanup," he explained.


Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society