Are Pittsburgh EPA Projects environmentalism or anti-homelessness?

Written By Carson Folio, Staff Writer

It was winter break, and I was on the way to work riding the bus out of the North Side. I
remember that during my bus rides before moving onto campus I would regularly see a large
homeless encampment on Stockton Avenue. While I thought it was unfortunate, seeing the
encampment did not bother me; rather, I just hoped that the people in such a situation could find
housing and were not bullied by the city.

Until that was exactly what happened. The city of Pittsburgh forced all the residents to vacate in
the middle of December, with spokesperson for Mayor Ed Gainey citing “broader safety and
public health concerns.” Some people believed it was a good thing because they think that
homeless encampments are an eyesore, but that is not even the right way to look at the issue.
That is for another article, though. My biggest issue next to depriving people of their right to
housing would be the signs posted on the large fences that have gone up around where this
encampment once was.

They warn of a Superfund site with infectious waste and instructs readers
to call a phone number for more info. A Superfund site is described by the PA EPA as a site that
“releases of hazardous substances into the environment have occurred or could potentially
occur.” While that is a rather vague definition, Superfund sites tend to be so toxic that it is plain
and obvious. Thankfully, the EPA on a federal level has a website that allows anyone to look at
Superfund sites both active and inactive; inactive meaning that the Superfund site has
successfully been cleaned up to a level acceptable to the U.S EPA.
One problem, though; The supposed Superfund site on Stockton Avenue is not listed at all.
Searching for the site anywhere provides no results. Considering that the U.S EPA regularly
updates their logs, something is very wrong here.

The area where the encampment once was shares nothing in common with the listed Superfund sites in PA; where one would expect to see
rust-colored water and have their nose burned by the smell of volatile organic compounds,
instead all that is seen is well-kept grass. No obvious chemicals and no horrid smells. This is not
normal for a Superfund site.

What does this mean? Unfortunately, that will be hard to figure out. The phone number on the
signs posted goes to the mayor’s office but a call to them asking about this Superfund site went
unanswered. Twice. The possibility of this plot of land falsely being classified as a Superfund site
would not only make people celebrate the city’s efforts in further displacing homeless people but
also invoke thoughts of an immediate need to fix the site. The environmental problem aspect
only creates more problems though, as that will make people be very wary of the North Shore
and maybe even all of Pittsburgh. The only confirmed Superfund site near Pittsburgh is in
Coraopolis – which is not close at all. Surely the government in Pittsburgh does not want the city
to be seen as toxic again.

The lack of reporting on this Superfund site speaks volumes. Misleading the public to get them to
be okay with city officials treating homeless people like they do not deserve empathy or a place
to live is cruel and needs to stop. Supporting true environmentalism and the cleanup of
confirmed Superfund sites is something I can get behind, though.