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December 4, 2013

Quick Guide: EPA Superfunds & Helping the Environment

There are more than 40,000 identified hazardous waste sites in the United States. These sites, contaminated with dangerous chemicals, can pollute groundwater, the soil, and the air. Not only do they harm the environment, but they can be a danger to human health, increasing the chances of respiratory disease, cancer, birth defects, and more. Fortunately, there are EPA Superfunds for helping the environment. These programs attempt to identify and clean up waste sites, thus improving an area’s overall environment and promoting community health.

Broken Batteries, Hazardous Waste Site Cleanup

Hazardous waste photographed by Daniel Whitman on Flickr.

What are EPA Superfunds?

The EPA Superfund program, started in the 1980s, is a federal program to clean up uncontrolled, hazardous waste sites in the United States. The EPA cleans up hazardous waste dumps and compels responsible parties to reimburse them or help clean up the site. The Superfund program is administered by the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

How does a site undergo the Superfund process?

Sites are usually discovered and assessed by the EPA after the group is notified of the release of hazardous substances. Here is the general outline of the procedure:

1.Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection: The site is inspected for hazardous wastes. If immediate action is needed, the EPA’s Emergency Response program kicks in. If not, the site goes through the normal Superfund process.

2. National Priorities List (NPL) Site Listing Process: This list helps the EPA determine which sites warrant further long-term cleanup.

3. Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study: This step determines the nature and extent of contamination, and what steps need to be taken for the site to be treated.

4. Records of Decision: This process explains cleanup alternatives for a NPL site.

5. Remedial Design/Remedial Action: Where the bulk of actual cleanup happens, this is when plans of cleanup are implemented.

6. Construction Completion: The identifying steps that physical cleanup construction has been completed.

7. Post Construction Completion: This step ensures that the EPA provides long-term response actions for protecting human health and the environment.

8. NPL Deletion: Once all goals are achieved for the site, the site can be deleted from the NPL.

9. Site Reuse/Redevelopment: The site is then available for reuse, and communities are encouraged to work with partners to redevelop the area.

Community Involvement

Throughout the Superfund process, communities are encouraged to become involved and aware of the EPA’s work in the contaminated area. You and other community members can easily get involved with helping the EPA clean up and inform others of the process. One of the major ways you can become involved is during the redevelopment or reuse phase, after a Superfund site has been deemed cleaned and safe. The EPA encourages local neighbors and governments to work together for a new development plan for the area, and also provides a list of guides and resources for redevelopment. During other parts of the Superfund process, community members are also encouraged to work with the EPA and share information with the entire community about what is being done.

Get involved by joining a community advisory group overlooking your local superfund. This allows you to influence the development of the space after cleanup. Getting in touch with your Regional Public Liaison on the Superfund site can connect you to the appropriate groups and coalitions involved as well.

This process is similar to how Creeklife highlights places that need community attention. Get started on a project that will protect and improve our environment today!

Posted by Mark Contorno

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