This is Superfund

Years ago, people did not understand how certain wastes might affect people’s health and the environment. Many wastes were dumped on the ground, in rivers or left out in the open. As a result, thousands of uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites were created. Some common hazardous waste sites include abandoned warehouses, manufacturing facilities, processing plants and landfills.

In response to growing concern over health and environmental risks posed by hazardous waste sites, Congress established the Superfund Program in 1980 to clean up these sites. The Superfund Program is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in cooperation with individual states and tribal governments. Superfund locates, investigates and cleans up hazardous waste sites throughout the United States.

The Superfund Trust Fund was set up to pay for the cleanup of these sites. The money comes mainly from taxes on the chemical and petroleum industries. The Trust Fund is used primarily when those companies or people responsible for contamination at Superfund sites cannot be found, or cannot perform or pay for the cleanup work.


Hazardous Waste Sites are discovered by local and state agencies, businesses, the U.S. EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and by people like you. You can report potential hazardous wastes sites to the National Response Center Hotline or to your state and local authorities. To report a hazardous waste site, problem, or emergency, you should call the Hotline at 18004248802. This Hotline is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


A number of the sites reported to the National Response Center are emergencies and require immediate action. Emergency actions eliminate immediate risks to ensure your safety. Superfund’s number one priority is to protect the people in communities near sites and their environment.

Superfund personnel are on call to respond at a moment’s notice to chemical emergencies, accidents, or releases. Typical chemical emergencies may include train derailments, truck accidents, and incidents at chemical plants where there is a chemical release or threat of a release to the environment. Superfund may respond, or may help state and local authorities to deal with these emergencies quickly. The hazardous materials are hauled away from the site for treatment or proper disposal, or they are treated at the site to make them safe. The risk to the community is removed.

In an emergency situation, you and your community will be kept informed of the situation and what steps are being taken to ensure your safety. EPA then evaluates the site and determines whether additional cleanup is necessary.


When a potential hazardous waste site is reported, EPA screens the site to determine what type of action is necessary. EPA reviews existing data, inspects the site, and may interview nearby residents to find out the history and the effects of the site on the population and the environment. Many of the sites that are screened do not meet the criteria for Federal Superfund cleanup action. Some sites do not require any action, while others are referred to the states, other programs, other agencies or individuals for cleanup, or other action.

For the remaining sites, EPA tests the soil, water, and air to determine what hazardous substances were left at the site and how serious the risks may be to human health and the environment. Parties responsible for the contamination at the site may conduct these assessments under close EPA supervision. Their involvement in the study and cleanup process is critical in order to make best use of Superfund resources. EPA uses the information collected to decide what type of action, if any, is required.

At this point, EPA prepares a Community Relations Plan to ensure community involvement. This plan is based on discussions with local leaders and private citizens in the community. In addition, EPA sets up a local information file in the community so that citizens can have access to information about the site. The information file or "repository" is usually located at a library or a public school and contains the official record of the site, reports and activities (called the Administrative Record), as well as additional site-related information.


Early Actions are taken when EPA determines that a site may become a threat to you or your environment in the near future. For example, there may be a site where leaking drums of hazardous substances could ignite or cause harm to you if touched or inhaled. In an instance such as this, EPA takes steps to make sure the situation is quickly addressed and the site is safe. Typically Early Actions are taken to:

  • prevent direct human contact with contaminants from the site;
  • remove hazardous materials from the site;
  • prevent contaminants from spreading off the site;
  • provide water to residents whose drinking water has been contaminated by the site; or
  • temporarily or permanently evacuate/relocate nearby residents.

Early Actions may take anywhere from a few days to five years to complete depending on the type and extent of contamination. EPA also determines if Long-Term Action will be necessary.


Superfund cleanups are very complex and require the efforts of many experts in science, engineering, public health, management, law, community relations, and numerous other fields. The goal of the process is to protect you and the environment you live in from the effects of hazardous substances.

Your involvement is very important. You have the opportunity and the right to be involved in and to comment on the work being done.

Technical Assistance Grant Program EPA values your input and wants to help you understand the technical information relating to the cleanup of Superfund sites in your community so that you can make informed decisions.

Under the Superfund law, EPA can award Technical Assistance Grants of up to $50,000 per site. Technical Assistance Grants allow communities to hire an independent expert to help them interpret technical data, understand site hazards, and become more knowledgeable about the different technologies that are being used to cleanup sites.

Your community group may be eligible for a Technical Assistance Grant, if you are affected by a Superfund site that is listed or proposed for listing on the National Priorities List. More information about Technical Assistance Grants is available from a Regional EPA Community Involvement Coordinator.

Community Advisory Group Program EPA is committed to early, direct, and meaningful public involvement in the Superfund process. One of the ways communities can participate in site cleanup decisions is by forming a Community Advisory Group. A Community Advisory Group is made up of representatives of diverse community interests. Its purpose is to provide a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process.

Contact a Regional EPA Community Involvement Coordinator for more information about the Community Advisory Group Program.


The National Priorities List is a published list of hazardous waste sites in the country that are eligible for extensive, long-term cleanup under the Superfund program.


To evaluate the dangers posed by hazardous waste sites, EPA has developed a scoring system called the Hazard Ranking System. EPA uses the information collected during the assessment phase of the process to score sites according to the danger they may pose to public health and the environment. Sites that score high enough on the Hazard Ranking System are eligible for the National Priorities List. Once a site is scored and meets the criteria, EPA proposes that it be put on the List. A site may also be proposed for the National Priorities List, if the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issues a health advisory for the site or if the site is chosen as the stat’s top priority site. The proposal is published in the Federal Register and the public has an opportunity to comment in writing on whether the site should be included on the National Priorities List. To obtain more information on a proposed site, contact your Community Relations Coordinator.


Long-term cleanups are extensive. Built into this process are several phases that lead to the ultimate goal of cleaning up the site and providing a safe environment for the citizens living near the site. Throughout the process, there is opportunity for citizen involvement.

First, a detailed study of the site is done to identify the cause and extent of contamination at the site, the possible threats to the environment and the people nearby, and options for cleaning up the site.

EPA uses this information to develop and present a Proposed Plan for Long-Term Cleanup to citizens and to local and state officials for comment. The Proposed Plan describes the various cleanup options under consideration and identifies the option EPA prefers. The community has at least 30 days to comment on the Proposed Plan. EPA invites community members to a public meeting to express their views and discuss the Plan with EPA (and sometimes state) officials.

Once the public’s concerns are addressed, EPA publishes a Record of Decision, which describes how the Agency plans to clean up the site. A notice is also placed in the local newspaper to inform the community of the cleanup decision.

Next, the cleanup method is designed to address the unique conditions at the site where it will be used. This is called the Remedial Design. The design and actual cleanup is conducted by EPA, the State, or by the parties responsible for the contamination at the site. EPA closely oversees this design phase and the development of the cleanup at the site. When the design is completed, EPA prepares and distributes a fact sheet to the community describing the design and the action that will take place at the site.

EPA can put in place equipment and manpower necessary to clean up a site, but it may take a long time to return a site to the way it was before it was contaminated. Some sites, due to the extent of contamination, will never return to the way they were prior to the pollution; however, EPA will make sure that the site will be safe for the people living around the site now and in the future. EPA regularly monitors every National Priorities List site to make sure it remains safe. If there is any indication that a problem has arisen, immediate action will be taken to make the site safe again.

Long-Term Actions

Early Actions can correct many hazardous waste problems and eliminate most threats to human health and the environment. Some site, however, require Long-term Action. Long-term Actions include restoring groundwater and taking measures to protect wetlands, estuaries, and other ecological resources.

These sites were caused by years of pollution and may take several years, even decades, to clean up.


Superfund Cleanup is either paid for by the parties responsible for contamination or by the Superfund Trust Fund. Under the Superfund law, EPA is able to make those companies and individuals responsible for contamination at a Superfund site perform, and pay for, the cleanup work at the site. EPA negotiates with the responsible parties to get them to pay for the plans and the work that has to be done to clean up the site. If an agreement cannot be reached, EPA issues orders to responsible parties to make them clean up the site under EPA supervision. EPA may also use Superfund Trust Fund money to pay for cleanup costs, then attempt to get the money back through legal action.


EPA’s Superfund Program is the most aggressive hazardous waste cleanup program in the world. Everyday, Superfund managers are involved in critical decisions that affect public health and the environment. They use the best available science to determine risks at sites. New and innovative technologies are being developed to help achieve faster and less expensive ways to cleanup sites. And, where possible, old hazardous waste sites are being restored to productive use. Millions of people have been protected by Superfund cleanup actions.

The Superfund Program has one ultimate goal: to protect YOUR health and YOUR environment.

(Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 6:00 pm EST; Closed Federal Holidays)
URL address:

The RCRA, Superfund, & EPCRA Information Hotline researches and provides information on 1) Superfund, including site assessment, cleanup, removals, and Superfund Reform Initiatives such as Brownfields; and 2) hazardous and solid waste management, recycling, and permitted facilities under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and 3) emergency planning and preparedness under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This hotline is also linked to Superfund’s Home Page that contain site information.


EPA wants to remain accessible and responsive to your concerns. Our Community Involvement staff is available to answer any questions you may have regarding a Superfund site or an area you think may be a site. Listed below is a compete list of EPA’s Regional Offices.

If you live in: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Vermont, contact:
EPA Region 1 (RPS-74)
John F. Kennedy Federal Building
Boston, Massachusetts 02203
Telephone: (617) 565-3425
Facsimile: (617) 565-3415
If you live in: New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, contact:
EPA Region 2 (26-OEP)
290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007-1866
Telephone: (212) 637-3673
Facsimile: (212) 637-4445
If you live in: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, contact:
EPA Region 3 (3HW43)
841 Chestnut Building
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 566-3245
Facsimile: (215) 566-5518
Toll Free: (800) 438-2474
If you live in: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, contact:
EPA Region 4
100 Alabama Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Telephone: (404) 562-8674
Facsimile: (404) 562-8896
Toll Free: (800) 435-9234 for AL, FL, GA, MS &
Toll Free: (800) 435-9233 for KY, NC, SC, TN
If you live in: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, contact:
EPA Region 5 (PS19-J)
77 West Jackson Boulevard
Metcalfe Federal Building – 19th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604-3507
Telephone: (312) 886-6685
Facsimile: (312) 353-1155
Toll Free: (800) 621-8431
If you live in: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, contact:
EPA Region 6 (6SF-P)
Tower at Fountain Place
1445 Ross Avenue, Suite 1200
Dallas, Texas 75202-2733
Telephone: (214) 665-6617
Facsimile: (214) 665-6660
If you live in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, contact:
EPA Region 7
726 Minnesota Avenue
Kansas City, KS 66101
Telephone: (913) 551-7003
Facsimile: (913) 551-7066
Toll Free: (800) 223-0425
If you live in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, contact:
EPA Region 8 (80EA/PAI)
999 18th Street, Suite 500
Denver, CO 80202-2466
Telephone: (303) 312-6600

Facsimile: (303) 312-7025

If you live in: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, U.S. Territories of American Samoa & Guam, contact:
EPA Region 9 (H-1-1)
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone: (415) 744-2178
Facsimile: (415) 744-1796
If you live in: Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, contact:
EPA Region 10 (ECO-081)
1200 6th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Telephone: (206) 553-1272
Facsimile: (206) 553-6984

This page was last updated on: March 12, 1998
Site maintained by: Office of Emergency and Remedial Response
[email protected]

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