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Basic Information

The Superfund program uses the term "Community Involvement" to demonstrate its commitment to early and meaningful community participation during the cleanup of Superfund sites. The foundation of Superfund's community involvement program is the belief that members of the public affected by a Superfund site have a right to know what the EPA is doing in their community and to have a say in the decision-making process.

When Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, in 1980, it incorporated public involvement into the Superfund process. Congress intended to ensure that the people whose lives were affected by abandoned hazardous wastes and EPA’s actions to clean them up would have a say in what happened in their community. Since then, Congress, through passage of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), and EPA, through policy and regulation, have further strengthened the role of community members in the Superfund process. While EPA retains the final responsibility and authority to decide what will happen at a Superfund site, the Agency values and seriously considers community input. EPA has learned that making the extra effort to listen to and involve people leads to a smoother and timelier cleanup.

CERCLA and EPA regulations require that specific community involvement activities must occur at certain points throughout the Superfund process. These required activities are described in The Superfund Process. In addition to these required activities, EPA does much more to involve the public, such as offering independent technical assistance through the Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) and Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) programs, supporting Community Advisory Groups (CAGs), and hosting various public events, like poster sessions, site tours, or focus groups. Many of the various outreach techniques EPA uses are described in detail in the Superfund Community Involvement Toolkit .

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