Breath of Clarity

Discussion Comment 2: Superfund List

Original Post by Amber Papa:

The Motorola 52nd Street Superfund Site is located in Phoenix, AZ, where remediation has slowly been taking place for over 30 years. A Motorola plant that produced microchips in the 1950’s, was dumping chemical waste into a dried out well on site. The main chemical that is now found in the groundwater in that community is called trichloroethylene (TCE), which is a known carcinogen. Estimates show that over 116,000 gallons of TCE was dumped over the years by Motorola.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is currently the state agency overseeing the cleanup efforts, but has recently urged the EPA to take over because the site is much bigger than they originally anticipated and has gone further outside the borders of the Superfund site. There are currently two groundwater treatment plants on site. However, over 30 years only 41,000 pounds of TCE has been removed as compared to a neighboring Superfund site called North Indian Bend Wash, that has removed 91,000 pounds in the same amount of time.

Erin Jordan with ADEQ commented that “EPA’s joint and several liability approach will be faster than Arizona’s fairer, but in this case potentially slower, proportionate liability approach,” referring to the disputes between potentially responsible parties (PRP’s) over water rights and cleanup remedies to be used (Microsoft News 2020).

In my opinion, I think it would be beneficial for the EPA to take over to increase funding for the site by holding PRP’s accountable. Also, they could conduct further investigations to provide new remedial alternatives that might help speed up the cleanup process.


Scripps Local Media. 2019. “Frustrations mount with slow progress in Phoenix-area Superfund site.” Accessed April 14, 2020. (Links to an external site.)

Microsoft News. 2019. “ADEQ makes case that Superfund site is larger than previously thought.” Accessed April 14, 2020.


It is fascinating to see the status of two nearby sites side-by-side. With location being the controlled variable, this is a stellar opportunity to learn factors that are correlated with a site’s likelihood of being quickly cleaned.

The problem seems to be ADEQ didn’t understand the problem’s extent before it started overseeing the cleanup. It upsets me there is such a lower standard for the original investigation. The strategy ADEQ had in place to solve the problem was not even good enough to keep the damage within the site. Why was it harder to remove the TCE from here compared to North Indian Bend Wash? The EPA would’ve been a useful actor in the administrative sense of resolving disputes between PRPs over water rights and cleanup remedies to be used. In the case of the task force report being carried out, there should be case studies of past cleanups showing successful tactics for the same problem. They would’ve been very useful to reference in this scenario.