The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) takes over all Superfund site remediation or mandated cleanup of seriously contaminated sites throughout the U.S.
At present, our country’s worst contaminated sites (radioactive wastes; coal tar; chemical-industry residues) are assessed and remediated by private contracting companies.
These companies receive billions of tax dollars a year to do the cleanup, and–as private ventures–they seek the greatest possible payment from the government, extending over as long a time as possible.
Some speak of ending the sluggishness by having time limits imposed on the contractor, with heavy fines for lateness. But if the E.P.A. were solely responsible, and if each cleanup task were outlined in advance, then E.P.A. managers would be motivated to get the job done in the quickest, most effective manner. In-agency promotion would result from finding efficient solutions, site after site.
So: have the E.P.A. form a special branch solely for Superfund projects. Instead of continuing the current practice of spending years collecting samples and producing detailed reports, the E.P.A. works directly at the site. It promptly searches for contaminants and then finds the means for removing them. Nuclear contaminants, for example, can be discovered with ground-penetrating radar and removed by robots. All the work that now takes years and billions of dollars could be done in-house and much faster.
The money saved through this process will be reallocated to the Department of Energy’s solar program and to the cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants across the country.