EPA Takes Action on Public Health Risks by Proposing the Unity Auto Mart Site in Unity, Wisconsin, for the Superfund National Priorities List

September 8, 2021

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CHICAGO (Sept. 8, 2021) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed adding 13 sites nationwide, including the Unity Auto Mart site in Unity, Wisconsin, to the National Priorities List. The NPL is the list of hazardous waste sites in the United States eligible for remedial cleanup action financed under the federal Superfund program.

With this Superfund NPL update, the Biden-Harris Administration is demonstrating a commitment to updating the NPL twice a year. By pledging to add sites more regularly to the NPL, EPA is taking action to protect the health of communities across the country while cleaning up and returning blighted properties to safe and productive reuse in areas where environmental cleanup and jobs are needed most.

“EPA recognizes that no community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, pray, and go to school.  By adding sites to the Superfund NPL, we are helping to ensure that more communities living near the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination have the protection they deserve,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.  “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to increasing funding and working with Congress on the bipartisan infrastructure deal to provide the Superfund Program with the resources it needs to address a backlog of sites awaiting cleanup, as well as additional sites in need of cleanup.” 

The Unity Auto Mart site consists of chlorinated solvent contamination in groundwater originating from the Unity Auto Mart. Unity Auto Mart (UAM) is a former gas station/convenience store, coin-operated laundromat, and dry cleaner. UAM first started as gasoline station in the early 1960s. A dry-cleaning business was added later and operated between 1979 to 1984. The UAM gas station changed hands several times, remaining open until 2012. The property is now vacant. The state of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) first identified chlorinated solvents at the UAM property in 1999. By 2014, WDNR requested EPA’s assistance when numerous potable private wells in the Village of Unity were discovered to be contaminated with tetrachloroethene (PCE) and its breakdown products.

The chlorinated solvents found in drinking water wells include PCE and its breakdown products. To date, the chlorinated plume has contaminated 17 private wells, including eight wells with levels above the Safe Drinking Water Act Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). The contamination plume is currently estimated to span approximately 25 acres. Most residents within a 4-mile radius of the Unity Auto Mart facility rely on private groundwater wells for drinking. WDNR provided carbon filters or alternate water supplies to residents whose drinking water wells contained PCE and TCE exceeding standards. The EPA has assisted WDNR with monitoring and delineating the extent of contamination. The state of Wisconsin referred the site to the EPA because substantial investigations and long-term cleanup are required.

Background

The NPL includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.

EPA proposes sites to the NPL based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. 

Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in both birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24 percent within three miles of sites after cleanup.

Further, thanks to Superfund cleanups, communities are now using previously blighted properties for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. As of 2020, EPA has collected economic data on 632 Superfund sites, finding 9,900 businesses in operation, 227,000 people employed, $16.3 billion in employee-earned income, and $63.3 billion in business-generated sales.

For information about Superfund and the NPL, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund

For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for NPL and proposed sites, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/current-npl-updates-new-proposed-npl-sites-and-new-npl-sites

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