‘Superfund’ is a word that is commonly used in the media when referring to areas that have been contaminated with toxic materials. The use of the word began in 1980 when the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was passed into law. In the decades prior to the passing of CERCLA, it was common for industrial and mining waste dumping sites to simply be abandoned after they were no longer useful. Love Canal in New York and the Valley of the Drums in Kentucky were two highly publicized wastes sites that brought national attention to the problem of uncontrolled waste dumping and pollution.
Former industrial and mining sites can be contaminated with heavy metals, organics, PCBs and other wastes that pose health risks to the people living near them. The government passed CERCLA to meet the public demand for a response to these threats to human health and the environment. CERCLA gives the EPA authority to manage the cleanup of sites that have been contaminated with hazardous wastes through the Superfund Program. The program is designed to identify sites, begin long term remediation actions and hold liable the potentially responsible party.
Shortly after the passing of CERCLA, the EPA created the National Priorities List (NPL), the list of sites that meet the criteria for remediation under the Superfund Program. New sites are still being identified and added to the NPL and as of early 2014, there were 1,322 sites on the list. Since the passage of CERCLA, 375 sites had been considered successfully cleaned up and removed from the list.
The process of remediating a superfund site from beginning to end can be complex and usually involves multiple parties. The EPA coordinates with State and local officials along with community groups to identify sites and plan out remediation actions. Private contractors are utilized for the physical work done on the site and larger projects can require the involvement of teams and resources from all over the country.
Superfund sites receive the most public interest so it is very common for smaller remediation projects to take place without receiving any special attention. The land around gas stations, laundromats, auto shops and small manufacturers may inadvertently become contaminated with hazardous substances over the years. Even when a site may not meet the criteria for the Superfund Program, the extent of contamination may exceed limits set by the state and still require some kind of action. That’s why Protect Environmental works with the TCEQ, business owners and property managers to map sites that require cleanup, identify risks and form strategies specifically tailored to individual situations.
Hazardous waste and contamination problems and the laws governing them can be complex, but having a partner like Protect Environmental can help your organization stay compliant and competitive.