SUPERFUND qualifies as a household word in the United States, but many Americans are probably unaware that Superfund has not lived up to its name since being established in 1980.
A large number of waste sites across the United States remain to be assessed: The degree of hazard they represent has not been determined, nor responsibility assigned for creating the site in the first place, and plans have yet to be developed for removing the waste or rendering it harmless.
The public is generally aware of the presence of hazardous wastes but not of the fact that a tremendous volume of waste materials, hazardous or potentially so, remains outside the Superfund program.
Even getting onto the Superfund list does not guarantee that a waste site will be assessed, let alone actually cleaned up.
The Environmental Protection Agency is only a part of the nation's struggle to control, diminish, or eradicate the deluge of waste, toxic and otherwise, created by modern society.
The word Superfund is itself misleading, in that it seems to imply that if only more money is put into the effort, the cleanup task can soon be accomplished.
The present generation owes it to posterity to get on with the job. But signs of lack of responsible use and proper disposal of hazardous materials are everywhere.
Here as in other such situations, the needy tend to suffer more than the affluent, who have the wherewithal to shield themselves from environmental problems.
The basic Superfund plan stresses the need to ensure that the right priorities are followed - especially accountability rather than financial gain.
Hazardous-waste disposal is, of course, more than an American problem; it has spawned a major worldwide industry. Some developing countries are now making the same mistakes as the US once made.
Agreement, locally and worldwide, as to responsibility is the foremost as well as the most difficult point to reach.
Actually, we are all responsible, children and adults: The urgent need to protect Earth must be instilled early in life.
Resources, landscapes, and other precious features of our globe have for too long been abused and misused. Much has been lost for good. But much of the degradation can be reversed - starting now.