Group believes budget cuts will hurt Superfund cleanup in Chattanooga


January 17th, 2018by Mark Pacein Local Regional NewsRead Time: 2 mins.

Buildings are seen in the Jefferson Heights neighborhood on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Parts of Jefferson Heights, along with locations in Alton Park, Cowart Place, Richmond and the Southside Gardens neighborhoods, have been proposed as EPA Superfund sites after lead contamination was found in the yards of homes.

A group of small business owners in Tennessee is questioning the Trump administration’s commitment to Superfund cleanups and raising concerns about its ability to remediate a site in Chattanooga.

The administration has put an added emphasis on identifying and cleaning toxic sites in the U.S., but the Tennessee Small Business Alliance questioned the administration’s ability to follow through on the commitment because of proposed Environmental Protection Agency budget and staff cuts.

“It’s important to Tennessee’s business and economic prosperity to see these highly contaminated Superfund sites cleared of their harmful pollution,” alliance director Lenda Sherrel wrote in a release.

The EPA is the federal agency tasked with identifying and remediating the sites.

President Donald Trump proposed to cut the department’s budget by one-third, the largest cut of any agency. The Senate Appropriations Committee introduced a bill that would cut $150 million from the EPA. The House proposed a similar bill that would slash $528 million. The EPA’s Budget in Brief overview for fiscal year 2018 shows $983 million in program eliminations. The total EPA budget in 2017 was approximately $8 billion.

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“The administration is committed to creating a leaner, more accountable, less intrusive, and more effective government,” the overview reads.

And that’s exactly why the Tennessee Small Business Alliance is worried.

“Cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by almost a third worsens the local burden posed by these toxic sites that threaten human health while hindering the ability to create and grow businesses,” Sherrel wrote.

Tennessee has 18 sites listed on the Superfund National Priorities List. The EPA proposed to add 10 more locations across the U.S. earlier this month, one of those being in Chattanooga.

The site is the Southside Chattanooga Lead Site. It consists of dozens of properties in the city that have lead contamination.

Adding the site to the list is the first step in getting the authority and resources to sample additional yards and remediate impacted yards. However, not all households qualify to have their properties cleaned, even if the EPA finds high lead readings. The agency is focusing only on cleaning yards where children may be present.

Congress has until Friday to pass a budget, and the group is calling on U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee to oppose the cuts.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at or 423-757-6361. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @ChattanoogaOutdoors.