The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act — better known as the Superfund — was born in 1980, largely in response to the Love Canal disaster. At the time, experts thought the allocated $1.6 billion would more than cover the costs of cleaning up the sites. But today, the fund is exhausted (it officially went broke in 2003), and as of September 2007, there are 1,315 final and proposed sites with thousands more awaiting approval. So it is taxpayers, instead of the polluting companies, that are footing the bill. Still, few people — except, perhaps, those who live near a Superfund site — know about this toxic legacy.
Artist Brooke Singer has decided to make it relevant again. Last year, she and her team began visiting one toxic site per day, starting at a chemical plant in New Jersey, then jumping over to some zinc piles in Pennsylvania, then some landfills in Connecticut. They have cataloged all the toxics data, plus photos and histories, all on a cool visualization application called Superfund365. Visitors to the website are encouraged to contribute their own stories and images as well.
The tour will wrap up next year at the Pearl Harbor Naval Complex in Hawaii. Hopefully by that time, thanks to Singer and co., Americans will be more aware of the problem … and of the people who live with it daily.