Congress needs to get its act together on an issue that remains largely overlooked by a considerable segment of the American people: The need for an expanded ''Superfund'' to clean up hazardous waste.
Unfortunately, Congress as a whole has dragged its feet on the issue this year, despite the fact that the current Superfund legislation expires in September 1985. That may seem a long way off, but considering the time it takes to put new laws in place, to staff regulatory agencies, and to bring industry up to date on changes in existing regulations, September 1985 can be said to be just around the corner.
Besides, there is legitimate concern among environmentalists that if Congress waits to enact new legislation until next year - after the November presidential election - there will be insufficient public pressure on lawmakers to enact a truly meaningful bill.
Environmental legislation could well be lost in the shuffle of the deficit-reduction and tax-reform measures that are expected to dominate the 1985 legislative agenda.
Such concerns ought not be taken lightly.
Just how important is this business of cleaning up waste dumps throughout the United States? Very important. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has identified more than 540 hazardous waste dumps. Moreover, there are some 17, 000 sites that are considered dangerous.
Unfortunately, as pointed out by US Rep. Dennis E. Eckart in an article on today's Opinion page, since Congress enacted the Superfund program more than three years ago, the EPA has cleaned up only six hazardous waste sites.
At that rate, Mr. Eckart wryly notes, it would take the EPA 273 years to clean up all those sites.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, to its credit, has cleared a $9 billion Superfund bill that, among other considerations, sets stringent timetables for cleaning up chemical dumps.
Many legislative hurdles remain - both on the House side and, particularly, on the Senate side. In the Senate, a measure will first have to clear the committee level. It is not expected that a bill will come before the full Senate until later this year - assuming strong support emerges in that chamber for such a measure.
Such a snail's-pace effort need not be accepted by the American people.
It is time to clean up America's far too many hazardous waste sites. That means that Congress must move ahead with greater dispatch on Superfund legislation.