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Your Environment. Your Health.

Justification Narrative

FY 2009 Superfund Budget

Authorizing Legislation:   Section 311(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, and Section 126(g) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986.

Budget Authority

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FY 2007 Actual BA FY 2009 Enacted BA FY 2009 Estimated BA Increase or Decrease
$79,117,000 $77,546,000 $77,546,000 $0

FTEs are included with the regular NIEHS appropriation.

Director's Overview

For 20 years NIEHS’ Superfund Program has provided research and training that is the foundation of environmental protection.

Through an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research platform, the Superfund Research Program (SRP) identifies, assesses, and evaluates the potential health effects of exposure to hazardous waste and develops innovative chemical, physical and biological technologies for remediating sites contaminated by hazardous substances.  Investigators from diverse fields study the underlying biological and environmental principles pertaining to the nation’s most recalcitrant environmental problems.

SRP’s accomplishments were demonstrated at the Program’s recent national scientific meeting celebrating “20 Years of Success and a Vision for the Future.”  SRP’s basic premise, that the reduction of environmental exposures through improved engineering and public education can minimize environmentally related diseases, was a significant focus of this meeting.  Intervention strategies, based on the biological consequences of contaminant exposure, also have a role in reducing environmentally related diseases.  Research presented at this meeting also exemplified how cutting edge scientific knowledge is incorporated into decisions related to risk, cleanup and public health through a better understanding of the links between exposure and basic biological mechanisms.

Another recurring theme at the meeting was the ways in which the health effects of exposures to contaminants can be modulated by nutrition.  Preliminary findings suggest that different types of dietary fatty acids can either be protective against polychlorinated biphenyl-induced vascular alterations or can potentiate vascular changes that lead to atherosclerosis.  Similarly, ascorbate (Vitamin C) has long been recognized as an antidote for reducing the toxic effects of ingested chromium.  New SRP studies demonstrate that when ascorbate enters the cell, it can act as a potent amplifier of chromium’s damage to cellular DNA that could lead to an increased risk of developing cancer.  This example demonstrates that a nutritional supplement can be both protective and harmful.

Another example of the association between nutrition and contaminant exposure is the finding that folate (a form of Vitamin B) supplements may reduce an individual’s risk of arsenic-induced disease.  Studies indicate that in some situations, nutrition may be a sensible means for mitigating the effects of exposure to toxic environmental insults.  This research may lead to novel dietary recommendations at the national level for populations at risk, i.e., people residing near Superfund sites.

Environmental issues are also a critical part of disaster response.  As part of the National Response Framework, Superfund’s Worker Training Program (WTP) has played an active role in the federal response to significant disasters.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, WTP developed a model training intervention that can now be used in future crises.  For example, thousands of additional workers could be needed if a severe Avian Flu outbreak occurs in the poultry industry.  WTP has laid the groundwork for training these workers by bringing the Department of Agriculture, FEMA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration together for a planned response.  The Program is also preparing materials and trainers for earthquakes, chemical disasters and a dirty bomb attack - response scenarios required by the President through the Department of Homeland Security.

WTP has worked across the country to keep America's cleanup workforce and emergency responders safe.  During the past year, WTP funded training occurring in all fifty states, Puerto Rico and the Pacific Territories.  Nearly 131,000 workers received training through nearly 8,000 classes.  Training delivery stretched from Virginia, where numerous chemical emergency response courses were held, to the state of Washington, where basic Superfund Site worker training predominated; from Alaska, where training is available even in Barrow in the far north, to Mississippi, where the hazards of Katrina recovery are still being addressed.

Justification by Program

Program Descriptions and Accomplishments

Superfund Research Program (SRP):  SRP’s goal is to gain a better understanding of how exposure to toxicants affects human health in order to help environmental managers and risk assessors make sound decisions related to Superfund and other hazardous waste sites.  SRP also develops cost effective approaches to detect contaminants in the environment and for removing or reducing the amount of toxic substances found at hazardous waste sites.

SRP is supporting "industrial ecology" approaches that eliminate pollution from industrial processes by integrating recycling at all stages of a product's life cycle - from acquisition of raw materials to reuse of parts/materials when the product no longer functions – into creating new products that can break down or safely sequester toxic chemicals.  In a newly developed process, grantees have created an iron-based cement-like substance using solid waste materials from sources such as open pit copper mines, coal-fired power plants, steel foundries, cement plants, and shot blasting facilities.  An unexpected benefit of this process is that carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas, is trapped in the cement matrix, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.  The resulting cement is stronger and more resistant to extreme environmental conditions, such as those found in seawater and other corrosive environments, than current commercially available products.  Ongoing research is focused on testing this material’s ability to permanently bind metal and organic contaminants found in the environment.

Budget Policy:  The FY 2009 budget estimate for SRP is $49.6 million, which represents the same level of funding as the FY 2008 enacted amount.  Resources will be used to continue the support of high priority and scientifically rigorous multi-project research grants, covering the diverse areas of science needed to solve the complex health and environmental issues associated with the nation’s hazardous waste sites.  In addition, support will be continued for individual investigator grants to develop innovative approaches for the remediation of contaminated sediments.  NIEHS also plans to initiate a new area of investigation in the development of nanotechnology based tools to understand the mechanisms of bioremediation.  Support for SBIR grants will continue to develop innovative technologies for the monitoring and remediation of hazardous substances in the environment.

Portrait of a Program: Improved Screening Strategy

Portrait of a Program: Improved Screening Strategy">
FY 2008 Level $101,000
FY 2009 Level101,000

In FY 2007 SRP embarked on an exciting enterprise that draws from its past research investments, incorporates input from its stakeholders, i.e., Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) environmental practitioners, and promises to provide an improved screening strategy to detect harmful contaminants in sediments. Although only a small outlay is required in FY 2008 and FY 2009 to sustain this project, the major investment occurred over many years of grant support to seven individual research projects.

Contaminated sediments pose wide-ranging effects on human and ecological health, and contribute to the overwhelming cost required for site remediation. Costs to clean up just 11 of the 150 Superfund sites undergoing sediment remediation are expected to exceed $50 million for each site.

SRP has sponsored research leading to the development of seven unique biological indicator assays. Combined, these assays have the potential for providing a battery of highly sensitive, cost-effective tests that can be used as screening tools for contaminants found in sediments. SRP investigators are now collaborating with EPA to use these assays in a tiered approach for the standardization of collection protocols and data integration. The hypothesis of this tiered approach is that a battery of chemical class specific bioassays or biomarkers can predict diminished sediment quality by assessing the biological impact of contaminants. It is also anticipated that the bioassays proposed will be more sensitive, less expensive and require less time to conduct than the standard bioassays.

By combining the experience of EPA scientists and SRP researchers, the probability that the outcomes will be utilized by environmental managers is greatly increased. Culmination of these efforts is anticipated in FY 2010. If successful, this collaborative strategy can serve as a model for increasing the utility of SRP-funded research to solve the complex challenges of environmental exposures and clean up.

Worker Training Program (WTP):  WTP trains workers to protect themselves and their communities from exposure to hazardous materials encountered during hazardous waste operations, hazardous materials transportation, and environmental restoration of contaminated facilities or chemical emergency response.  WTP works with a network of experienced worker safety and health experts, trainers, and support staff that can be mobilized to protect and assist during times of national crisis.

WTP provides model occupational safety and health training for workers who are or may be engaged in activities related to hazardous waste removal or containment or chemical emergency response.

Primary Worker Training Awards

  FY2007 Actual FY2008 Estimate FY2009 Estimate
Amount in thousands
Workers Reached
Contact Hours


Budget Policy:  The FY 2009 budget estimate for WTP is $27.9 million, which represents the same level of funding as the FY 2008 enacted amount.  Resources will be used to continue awards of WTP cooperative agreements to support ongoing (a) occupational safety and health training for workers who are or may be engaged in activities related to hazardous waste removal, containment or chemical emergency response training activities, and (b) comprehensive training to disadvantaged urban youth in order to prepare them for employment in the construction and environmental cleanup fields.  WTP will also continue to support small businesses through its innovative SBIR e-learning for worker safety and health training program.  It will continue pursuing pre-deployment strategies and training materials development on a number of issues of key national response concern.

Portrait of a Program: Serving Spanish-Speaking Workers

FY 2008 Level$700,000
FY 2009 Level800,000

During FY 2009, WTP, while maintaining its core training missions, will undertake a significant expansion of its efforts to serve Spanish-speaking workers who are engaged in hazardous waste cleanup and emergency response. During the response to Hurricane Katrina, WTP learned that Hispanic workers are a particular at-risk population who experience high rates of occupational injury and death. Currently, WTP training programs reach thousands of Spanish-speaking workers each year with very good results. For example, at a hazardous materials class in Tucson conducted in Spanish, one woman said that she liked the class because she felt respected and for the first time that she had support. She added “...we feel better because we understand more and we can ask any questions we want and we learn more like that.” These are lessons in the safe use of hazardous materials that Hispanic workers can use at work to protect themselves and take back to their homes and neighborhoods to protect their families. WTP, through its awardees, will augment the delivery of actual training in the field through targeted outreach and support for additional bi-lingual trainers. Access to many of these multi-lingual resources will continue to be available through the NIEHS website, and access to classroom and hands-on training will be available to employers and workers through WTP.

effort began in August 2006 and will be continued through July 2010.

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