Bureaucracy Case Analysis

Topics: Superfund, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Hazardous waste Pages: 7 (2330 words) Published: July 8, 2008

The following case, Wichita Confronts Contamination, involves a vast polluted underground lake containing hazardous industrial waste. The site is located in the heart of the downtown, Wichita business district. The contamination was spreading about a foot a day and it was feared that water quality deterioration and serious health issues would result. The City Manager, Chris Cherches, is faced with the responsibility to draft a plan to resolve the crisis. The following details the process and the dynamics..

During the period of 1990, the down town business district of Wichita, Kansas was experiencing economical hardship due to the skyrocketing oil industry and the nationwide real estate slump. At the same time, the local leaders were in the process of developing strategies for urban renewal and new investments that would stimulate economic growth. They estimated $375 million would cover the entire revitalization project. In the wake of all this activity, they discovered hazardous chemical waste had been detected in some private and industrial wells in downtown Wichita. The Banking industry got wind of this and put a damper on granting loans for real estate. In June 1990, a local manufacturer, Coleman incorporated, approached the legal department about a contamination problem he discovered in the fall of 1988. Panic struck…. and it all hit the fan…. when the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment, acting on behalf of the Environment Protection Agency, reported that Wichita was sitting on an underground polluted lake ----dubbed the Gilbert and Mosley site.. The site was four miles long and one-and one half miles wide. The polluted aquifer was right beneath the “center” of the business district. The parcels affected had an estimated value of $86 million. This six-square mile area included major banks, hotels, homes and industrial headquarters. During the investigation, (KDHE) discovered a chemical degreaser used on metal was found at Coleman’s “headquarters” at the north end of the site. Question? Who is the responsible party? City Manager, Chris Cherches developed a comprehensive report that estimated to clean the aquifer could cost about $20 million and take as long as 20 years. Chris Cherches presented his report to the (KDHE) and they had two recommendations: Either the companies responsible could clean up the area, or the state would rank the site for National Priority List, the first step toward activating “Superfund”. Initiated in 1980, a Superfund site is a toxic waste site that falls under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. Superfund sites are areas contaminated with hazardous material left by corporate or government entities whose operations may have moved. The federal government launched the landmark Superfund program to wipe out the problem. Under the Superfund law, passed by Congress, companies and other parties found responsible for polluting sites are required to clean up the areas or pay the costs for cleanup to the (EPA). The National Priorities List (NPL) is the EPA’s list of toxic waste sites that the agency has determined present a significant risk to human health or the environment. (2)

In addition, KDHE’s report identified 508 other area businesses as Potentially Responsible Parties under Superfund law. Even more threatening, if the financial institutions made real estate loans in the Gilbert-Mosley district, they too could incur Superfund liability. As a result, all lending activity was halted. A local developer, David Burk, lost investors because it suddenly became impossible to sell property in that area. As the threats of uncertain liability arose, and the lost of real estate sales, the county appraiser’s office was receiving request for property reduction. Devastation was all over the...
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