Waiting for the booth to review a play isn’t anyone’s favorite part of watching football. But the review process is important for both teams — when it’s your side’s turn to get a call reviewed, you’re glad the playback booth exists.
Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency’s equivalent of a playback booth — their Inspector General’s office — is reviewing a panel that made some key recommendations to former Administrator Scott Pruitt on the cleanup of Superfund sites. This is good news, given the confusing nature of at least one of Pruitt’s judgment calls.
Before he left office, Administrator Pruitt decided the West Lake Landfill in Missouri — a complex but stable Superfund site — should be partially excavated, and the waste moved to other parts of the country. This decision defied scientific sense. Myriad of government tests have shown, again and again, that the waste at West Lake is safely buried — posing no threat to local residents. The waste is, unfortunately, radioactive. But it is neither leaching into the water nor wafting through the air.
Excavation will, by definition, change the status of that radioactive waste — leftovers from a time when the federal government was first developing nuclear weapons. Digging it up will be difficult and imprecise — a needle-in-a-haystack type of endeavor. While precautions will naturally be taken, disturbing the waste poses a substantial risk of releasing it into the environment. EPA estimates that the risk of cancer to workers on site will increase almost 100-fold in the case of excavation: from 28 in a million to 22 in ten thousand.
And yet it is the step after excavation where the risk analysis of Pruitt and his now-under-review-Superfund panel becomes the most difficult to understand.
The process of moving toxic waste out of the site to another part of the country is simply saturated with risk. Working crews and residents will be exposed when the waste is moved from the landfill to trucks. Exposure risk spikes again when the waste is moved from trucks to train cars. Every mile of track then carries risk — with the specter of derailment looming, a local disaster becomes a distinct possibility.
At the end of its rail journey, the radioactive waste would again be heaved from rail car, to truck, then finally back to the ground to be buried and capped.
Keep in mind: That toxic waste is already safely buried and capped at West Lake Landfill. While no one wants to live near radioactive waste, I know I’d rather live near a stable, capped landfill than one that is being torn up and moved around.
Thankfully, the EPA review booth is taking a look at how and why a series of Superfund recommendations were made to an EPA administrator who we now know was influenced by his own personal and political agenda.
For the sake of the residents and workers who may be exposed, Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler should delay his own decision on West Lake until his Inspector General’s office has finished this important investigation.
Some judgment calls must be examined from every angle before they can stand or be overturned. This is often the case with football, and it is certainly the case with West Lake. When it comes to Superfund judgment calls, lives may depend on a truly fair call.
Bradley Blakeman was a member of President George W. Bush's senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is also a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business Channel. He currently is a Principal with the 1600group.com a consulting company. — Click Here Now.
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