20 Years of Superfund
Responding to public fears of pervasive environmental pollution, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act on Dec. 11, 1980. CERCLA, also known as the "Superfund" Act, required Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create new processes, policies, and procedures, and develop new technical capabilities for treating and containing hazardous substances. Today, a viable Superfund program exists through the considerable efforts of up to 3500 staff and managers across the country, and annual budgets of up to 20% of the Agency^s total resources (and more than 50% of its contracts budget).
Superfund Redevelopment Accomplishments
Many people still think of Superfund sites as permanent toxic wastelands in the middle of their communities. There are vivid memories of more than 500 families having to leave their homes when the entire town of Times Beach, MO had to be closed because of the discovery of dioxin. And in Love Canal, NY, more than 900 families had to be relocated when hazardous wastes leached from an industrial landfill to contaminate nearby homes. Superfund evokes images of workers in "moon suits" and areas fenced off with large "Danger - Keep Out" signs.
That was the 1980s. Two decades later, much has changed. In Times Beach, 265,000 tons of dioxin-contaminated soil was dug up and incinerated. Thanks to new habitat management practices, Times Beach is now an extensive bird sanctuary and migratory bird waterway. At Love Canal, cleanup activities included demolition of the contaminated houses and construction of a specially designed system that permanently entombs the toxic materials. As a result, all contamination is safely contained. Families are now moving back into the area and more than 200 new homes have been sold.
Bird sanctuaries. Revitalized neighborhoods. These are the new images of Superfund. Other images include Jack Nicklaus teeing off at a golf course that he designed at a closed copper smelter in Montana. Or a Home Depot opening at a site that was once a radium processing plant – bringing new jobs and income to a disadvantaged community near downtown Denver.
Areas that were once dangerous are now being cleaned up and turned into office parks, playing fields, industrial centers, shopping centers, residential areas, tourist centers, and wetlands. Sites that were once abandoned or underused have now become valuable community resources. Areas that once helped to pull the local economy down are now generating new tax revenue and serving as catalysts for broader revitalization.
As of June 2000, there have been more than 170 success stories at Superfund sites in all areas of the country – over 130 of them involving totally new uses for a site. But this is just the beginning. These successes will be repeated at hundreds of other Superfund sites in the next few years.
Superfund Facts - The Program at Work
The Superfund program is hard at work cleaning up hazardous waste sites and protecting public health and the environment. EPA has significantly improved the Superfund program through administrative reforms and common sense management. Superfund is getting the job done. More than three times as many Superfund sites have been cleaned up in the past seven years than in all of the prior years of the program combined. Increasingly, EPA is not only protecting human health and the environment, but also addressing potential barriers to redevelopment of Superfund sites. The program has been fundamentally reformed and real cleanup progress is being made.
Program Accomplishments (as of September 2000)
Comparing cumulative accomplishments in September 2000 and January, 1993:
By September 2000, 700 Superfund sites had all cleanup construction completed, as compared to 155 Superfund sites by January 1993:
In September 2000, 217 Superfund sites were deleted from the NPL, as compared to 40 sites in January 1993.
In September 2000, 76% of the Superfund sites have either remedial cleanup construction underway, are completed, or are deleted, as compared to 42% in January 1993.
In September 2000, over 1,200 sites have all final cleanup plans approved, as compared with approximately 600 in January 1993.
In September 2000, over 6,300 removal actions had been taken at hazardous waste sites to immediately reduce the threat to public health and the environment, as compared to approximately 3,200 removal actions in January 1993.
There are 1510 proposed, final, and deleted NPL sites as of September 2000. In January 1993 there were 1280 proposed, final, and deleted NPL sites.
Enforcement cumulative accomplishments:
Since FY 1992, responsible parties continue to perform over 70% of new remedial work at NPL sites.
Over the life of the Superfund program, EPA has reached settlements with private parties with an estimated value of over $16 billion.
EPA gets the "little guys out." The Superfund enforcement program has achieved over 430 de minimis settlements, with more than 21,000 small waste contributors. (De minimus refers to something or a difference that is so little, small, minuscule or tiny that the law does not refer to it and will not consider it.)
EPA and its state and tribal partners have assessed over 41,000 sites and more than 32,000 sites have been removed from the CERCLIS waste site list to help promote the economic redevelopment of these properties.