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Notices to Readers ATSDR/National Governors' Association Report on Closed and Restricted Toxic Sites

The National Governors' Association (NGA), through a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), will release a report this month on the NGA's third biennial survey of sites closed or restricted to the public because of contamination by toxic substances. The report, "Restrictions Imposed on Contaminated Sites: A Status of State Actions" (1), describes the affected environmental media (i.e., land, groundwater, and surface water), types of contaminants, and nature of restrictions at 1705 sites nationwide.

The survey found that 69% of site restrictions pertained to groundwater use, particularly for drinking water supplies; 19% involved surface water contamination. Sixteen percent of the sites had both groundwater and land area contamination, and 6% were contaminated in all three media. At 741 of the groundwater sites, state agencies closed 7479 wells. Contaminants found most often in the reported groundwater sites varied by region, i.e., solvents in the industrialized northeast, pesticides and solvents in the more agricultural midwest, and ethylene dibromide (a grain fumigant) in the agricultural south.

Organic chemical pollution was found at 1306 (77%) of the 1705 sites; inorganic chemicals, at 618 (36%); petroleum products, at 163 (10%); and radionuclides, at 60 (4%). The five most common contaminants were trichloroethylene (221 sites), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (193 sites), lead (157 sites), benzene (148 sites), and perchloroethylene (108 sites).

The NGA survey counts only sites where state agencies have acted to protect the public from threats of toxic exposure; therefore, the NGA list may exclude highly contaminated Superfund sites that have little potential to expose human populations and include other sites with relatively low levels of contamination that could affect the health of nearby communities.

For further information on the survey and report, or to obtain copies, contact Policy Analyst, National Governors' Association, 444 North Capitol Street, Washington, DC 20001. Reported by: B Wells, National Governors' Association. Div of Health Education, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.


  1. Wells B. Restrictions imposed on contaminated sites: a status of state actions. Washington, DC: National Governors' Association, 1990.

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