BANGOR (AP) – Cleanup efforts at three toxic waste sites in Maine are at risk of being underfunded in fiscal year 2003, according to a report released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The report, titled “Cleanup Slowdown,” describes how cleanup efforts at many federal Superfund sites have stalled, primarily because of a lack of funding.

The report includes the Eastland Woolen Mill in Corinna, Callahan Mining Corp. in Brooksville and Hows Corner in Plymouth on its list of 522 Superfund sites – 42 percent of all sites – where cleanup could be slowed or stopped due to lack of funding in fiscal year 2003.

Between 1986 and 1995, the expensive cleanup operations were funded primarily by taxes levied on the manufacturers of toxic chemicals.

However, lawmakers have not reinstated the so-called “polluter pays tax” that expired in 1995. The Superfund, which boasted $3.6 billion in reserve at its peak, is expected to run out of money by 2004.

The Bush administration has said it will not support the tax until Superfund is overhauled. Critics have several concerns: one of them is that it’s not linked to a company’s actual environmental record.

While such concerns are being debated by politicians, environmentalists and waste management experts, the lack of new funding has slowed cleanup efforts, according to PIRG.

“This is a serious problem. There are half the cleanups happening this year as there were three years ago,” said the report’s author, Julie Wolk, an environmental health advocate with PIRG.

Without sufficient funding, Superfund cleanups take longer, unnecessarily exposing more people to the toxic waste, Wolk said.

The Corinna site, which last year was awarded only $5 million of the $12 million requested for cleanup efforts, was given special attention in the report as one of several “case studies” of Superfund sites that have felt the impact of reduced funding.

“There’s a toxic waste dump in the middle of town and they’re not getting the funding that they need,” Wolk said.

AP-ES-08-08-03 0803EDT

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