Recovering Cleanup Costs
Superfund (officially the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, "CERCLA") allows the federal government, states, and private parties to recover what they spent on cleanup activities. If EPA does the cleanup work using Superfund money, it will try to recover those costs from responsible parties.
On this page:
EPA may recover all of its costs that are "not inconsistent" with the National Contingency Plan (NCP). Examples of costs that the courts have found are recoverable include:
- Planning and implementing cleanup actions
- Investigation and monitoring
- Actions to limit access to the site
- Indirect costs needed to support the cleanup work
- EPA's contractor costs
- Annual allocation costs
Private parties may recover costs that are "consistent" with the NCP.
EPA pursues both the costs it has accrued before settlement ("past costs") and costs it anticipates accruing after the settlement ("future costs").
EPA may deposit costs recovered through settlements into "special accounts" within the Superfund Trust Fund to pay for cleanup activities at the site for which it received the money
The statute of limitations is the amount of time EPA, states, and private parties have to take action in court to recover their costs. There is some variation, depending on site-specific factors, but generally the following statute of limitations applies:
|Action||Statute of Limitation|
|3 years from when the removal action is complete.*|
|Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) costs||3 years from the date the Record of Decision (ROD) was signed.* [The ROD explains the chosen cleanup plan.]|
|Remedial Design costs||3 years from the completion of the design.*|
|6 years from when the remedy starts to be constructed on the site|
|* If the removal action, RI/FS, or remedial design is followed by a remedial action within three years, costs from the earlier activities can be recovered as part of the cost recovery for the remedial action.|
EPA tracks the amount owed by potentially responsible parties (PRPs) in its accounting system. Generally, a PRP has a certain period of time in which to pay the amount owned. When a payment is overdue EPA works with the Department of Justice to collect the debt.