Some business-backed economists have discovered it costs real money to clean up the nation's land, waterways and air. A New York Times report says they now question "spending a staggering $300 billion to $700 billion to restore waste sites to pristine condition." Human health could be protected for far less money, the economists say, by isolating the worst dangers, cleaning up 70 percent of the residues and burying the rest.
A recent article in the magazine Science, by researchers for another economist group, contends the health benefits of cleaning the worst pollutant, ground-level ozone, from the nation's air will fall far short of the costs. Acknowledging that the most polluted air should be scrubbed, the researchers say investing billions to end tobacco smoking, control radon gas and provide better prenatal and infant care would be more cost-effective.
In its own analysis, the Environmental Protection Agency says Superfund cleanups will cost an average $30 million per site. To date, only 64 of 1,200 identified Superfund sites have been scrubbed, for $7.5 billion worth of work.