The old toxic dump site located near Casmalia has been added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Superfund cleanup sites worthy of expedited focus and attention. This addition brings the list of such sites — released by embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — to 22. It remains unclear exactly what such designations mean, and Pruitt’s environmental critics dismiss the list — first released last December — as a publicity stunt designed to burnish the eco-cred of an administrator regarded as uncommonly hostile to his agency’s core mission. There are currently around 1,300 Superfund sites throughout the United States; the criteria by which Casmalia — or any of the others — made the list remains the subject of speculation, skepticism, and debate.
The 252-acre site, called Casmalia Resources and located in northwestern Santa Barbara County, accepted everything but radioactive waste until it was shut down in 1989. It was placed on the Superfund list after it was determined that toxic contaminants were migrating off-site and into the groundwater basin. Geologic experts had assured county, state, and federal regulators the site was geologically impermeable. Those assurances, it turned out, were not accurate. During its years of operation, Casmalia Resources, run by Ken Hunter, collected 5.6 billion pounds of toxic waste.