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The EPA’s superfund program was developed in 1980 to clean up some the most contaminated sites in the country and respond to environmental emergencies such as oil spills or natural disasters. As of June 2016, there were over 1,300 superfund sites listed in the U.S.
What Qualifies as a Superfund Site?
While some people think that superfund sites are simply the ones with the most contamination, this is not entirely true. A superfund site is any site in the U.S that has been contaminated by hazardous materials and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup. Simply put, it is a financial designation when the government feels it needs to step in to remediate a site because it poses an immediate and significant health risk to the public and/or environment.
In most cases, superfund cleanups are funded by the government, but not always. If one or more responsible parties can be found, the government will generally make cleanup their responsibility and step in as an enforcement or overseeing agency. However, even though the superfund is not necessarily funded by government, there is some cost involved in having EPA agents onsite.
How Does the EPA Find Responsible Parties?
The state will often put significant time and effort into finding out if there are any legacy responsible parties that are still in existence. The problem is that contamination usually occurs over a long period of time – think decades or longer. Over this time, the company could have changed hands multiple times, making it difficult to know who is responsible.
The statute of limitations for environmental issues is relatively long. This makes it easy to hold parties responsible for their actions even if several decades have gone by. If there are multiple responsible parties, the EPA will handle them separately.
What Kinds of Facilities are Superfund Sites?
There are all kinds of sites and facilities that can be deemed a superfund site. Generally, they are uncontrolled or abandoned and have some sort of contamination. Some sites can be landfills where there is no facility while others may be an active facility that is currently in operation.
You can find every superfund site online. Some basic and possibly detailed information is available as well. You can find all kinds of information about every superfund site though public records if you are willing to do some digging.
Debunking the Myth
It is a common misconception that superfund sites have the worst contamination levels in the country. While this may be true some of the time, it is not a defining characteristic. Superfund sites are defined by the level of threat they pose to the public and the environment.
To learn more about Handex’s work with superfund sites, contact us today!