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Section 3: Introduction

Cultures of Contamination

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1371-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-460-7

Publication date: 16 May 2007


How are identified instances of contamination addressed, assuming they have been identified and disclosed? The U.S. has evolved an activist ethos with regard to contamination – both in terms of identifying it and, in the case of identified contamination, taking some engineering action to remediate the hazard. In Chapter 13, A Grassroots Perspective on the Brownfields and Superfund Programs, veteran New Jersey grassroots leader Madelyn Hoffman offers a thorough review of the Superfund program that, since 1980s, has guided U.S. cleanup of sites identified as contaminated at a threshold demanding remediation. She provides a detailed overview of the process identifying the problem and for developing and comparing alternative approaches for remediation. Public involvement is integral to this process, as is the assessment of health risks for local populations. Hoffman also describes the more recent process of Brownfields remediation added as an adjunct to Superfund to more speedily return contaminated lands to productive use. If Superfund has been the subject of political opposition for its regulations, costs and for tying up property, Brownfields offers the political remedy by streamlining cleanup in order to foster reuse. The downside of this streamlined mitigation, however, as Hoffman stresses, may be the sacrifice in the quality of restoring the contaminated land, leading to future toxic exposures. Finally, throughout her discussion, Hoffman stresses the vital role of the grassroots network of organizations in the U.S. that “watchdog” local environments. Under the leadership of Lois Marie Gibbs, this grassroots network has become a force fighting for environmental cleanup and supporting newly discovered contaminated communities as they grapple with the attendant issues. In this view, it is the combination of laws and regulations and political will with an active level of citizen oversight and participation that makes the environmental cleanup process work.


Edelstein, M.R. (2007), "Section 3: Introduction", Edelstein, M.R., Tysiachniouk, M. and Smirnova, L.V. (Ed.) Cultures of Contamination (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 307-312.



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