Superfund

The Superfund program is part of a Federal government effort to clean up land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and that has been identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or to the environment.

The program was created in 1980 when Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The EPA works with communities, "potentially responsible parties" (PRPs), scientists, researchers, contractors, and state, local, tribal, and Federal authorities to identify hazardous waste sites, test the conditions of the sites, formulate cleanup plans, and to decontaminate the sites.

Sites where releases or potential releases have been reported are listed in a searchable EPA database called CERCLIS.

CERCLA was amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) in 1986.

CERCLIS (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Information System) is a database maintained by the US EPA as part of the Superfund program. It contains information such as the current status of cleanup efforts, cleanup milestones reached, and amounts of liquid and solid media treated at sites on the National Priorities List (NPL) or under consideration for the NPL.

Search the CERCLIS database at the EPA web site.

The substances found at Superfund sites have been designated by CERCLA as 1) causing or contributing to an increase in mortality or in irreversible or incapacitating illness, or 2) posing a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or to the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed.

More than 800 substances are currently designated as hazardous, and many more as potentially hazardous. These substances do not include petroleum or natural gas.

A complete list of the Superfund chemicals currently available in TOXMAP can be found on the list of Superfund chemicals [NOTE: link is to TOXMAP classic].

The Superfund site cleanup process begins with the reporting of possible releases of hazardous substances by individual citizens, responsible parties or EPA regional offices. The EPA then registers the information in CERCLIS, an electronic record of sites affected by potentially hazardous substances.

The EPA examines possible release of hazardous substances from a site via several processes:

The development of Superfund site cleanup plans includes several cleanup options. The EPA regularly invites public comment on the cleanup process in their community. The EPA also encourages citizens to participate in community advisory groups.

  • US NLM TOXMAP classic

    TOXMAP classic provides an Advanced Search, the ability to save your search results and to build custom regions.

  • US EPA EnviroMapper for Envirofacts and MyEnvironment

    EnviroMapper for Envirofacts and MyEnvironment both display Superfund site locations along with other locations that report to the US EPA.

Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) of Superfund sites are current or former owners or operators of a facility, transporters of a hazardous substance who chose the site for disposal, or agents who coordinate treatment or disposal of hazardous substances at the site. Identifying the PRPs for cleanup of a site is an EPA priority.

Sometimes the PRP is unwilling or unable to assume responsibility, or the PRP cannot be found. In these cases, the EPA, the state, or the tribe will clean the area with funding from the Superfund program. The EPA Enforcement pages provide further information on legal responsibility for cleaning dangerous waste sites.

The National Technical Information Service offers a list of PRPs at individual sites.

A Superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment. These sites are placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).

The NPL is the list of national priorities among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories. The NPL is intended primarily to guide the EPA in determining which sites warrant further investigation. The site's NPL "status" can provide more information about the site in relationship to the NPL:

  • Proposed: Site proposed (by the EPA, the state, or concerned citizens) for addition to the NPL due to contamination by hazardous waste and identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment.
  • Withdrawn: Site removed from the NPL because EPA has determined that it poses no real or potential threat to human health and the environment.
  • Final: Site determined to pose a real or potential threat to human health and the environment after completion of HRS screening and public solicitation of comments about the proposed site.
  • Deleted: Site deleted from the NPL by the EPA (with state concurrence) because site cleanup goals have been met and no further response is necessary at the site.

The National Priorities List (NPL) contains the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites throughout the United States and its territories. The NPL lists sites after 1) completing a Hazard Ranking System (HRS) screening and 2) soliciting and addressing public comments about the proposed site.

The NPL guides the federal government in determining which sites should be investigated. It is updated on a regular basis.

The EPA designates several NPL statuses for Superfund sites: Proposed, Final, Deleted, Withdrawn, and Removed. Not all Superfund sites are considered national priorities by EPA, and so do not appear on the NPL. TOXMAP contains data only on sites designated as Final (currently on the final NPL), Proposed (proposed for the NPL), and Deleted (deleted from the final NPL). These three statuses are collectively referred to by the EPA as the "NPL Dataset".

For details about the NPL site listing process, see this EPA page.