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Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE)

Basic Information

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

The SITE Program responded to technical challenges that were impeding efforts to protect human health and the environment from industrial contamination.

The industrial development and growth of the 20th century left a lasting mark on the United States. Advances in technology brought vast change to the face of American Industry and business, ranging from manufacturing new goods to providing the energy sources required for their production. As plastics, synthetics and energy from non-renewable fuels fulfilled consumer demands, their byproducts went largely unnoticed. However, unregulated disposal of resultant hazardous waste left a legacy of contamination that the United States would eventually need to address.

The 1970s and early 1980s were struck by a sequence of environmental contamination events that triggered national alarm and legislative response. In 1978, national news headlines revealed that Love Canal, a residential community in upstate New York near Niagara Falls, had been unknowingly constructed on and around land previously used for industrial waste disposal. Beneath the subdivisions of Love Canal, buried drum containers filled with potentially toxic materials had corroded. Leaked contents were detected in residential backyards, basements, and the yard of a local school.

The detrimental effects on human health from Love Canal and other events, many of them tragically realized, prompted the American people and their elected representatives to demand action at hundreds of the nation's hazardous waste dumps and chemical spill sites.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) was enacted in 1980 to respond to the threats to public health and environmental quality posed by abandoned hazardous waste sites across the nation. CERCLA established the National Priorities List (NPL) of hazardous waste sites that posed the greatest threat to human health and the environment. Once remediation work under CERCLA was underway, it became clear that environmental science and remediation technology at the time was insufficient for sites with severe or complex contamination challenges. Environmental remediation technology was in its infancy. Rapidly escalating cleanup costs and limited demonstrated progress prompted the Government Accounting Office (GAO, now the Government Accountability Office) to launch investigations into the pace of remediation at nation's hazardous waste and chemical spill sites. These investigations pointed to a need to strengthen the state of remediation science and technology to support better characterization of the nature of contamination present at the hazardous waste sites and to develop new cleanup technologies.

In 1986, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) included new statutory provisions to fulfill those needs. SARA required EPA to establish a comprehensive and coordinated federal research and development program for remediation technologies, including support of innovative technology demonstrations, with Annual Reports to Congress.

Risk Mangement Research | Air and Climate Change Research | Water Research | Ecosystems Restoration Research | Land Risk Management Research | Technology: Sustainable Technologies Research, Environmental Technology Verification Program (ETV), and Technology Assessments

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