Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England
EPA New England Superfund Glossary
There are many terms and acronyms specific to the Superfund program that you may not recognize. This glossary defines both terms and acronyms to ensure the information provided on this Web site is easy to understand for everyone. Click below on the appropriate letter for any term or acronym you would like defined.
A document authorizing and outlining the cleanup plan that will be followed as part of a short-term cleanup.
A compilation of documents supporting an administrative action; under Superfund, administrative actions often compel Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) to undertake or pay for hazardous waste site cleanups.
Transportation of contaminants by the flow of a current of water or air.
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services whose purpose is to prevent exposure and adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life associated with exposure to hazardous substances from waste sites, unplanned releases, and other sources of pollution present in the environment.
Relating to or occurring at the bottom of a body of water.
The storage and buildup of chemicals in wildlife and plants. This process can take place in one of two ways: through direct consumption of chemicals, or when one organism consumes another that has already consumed these chemicals. The second method contributes to the level of these substances in the organism that is higher on the food chain.
A substance or agent that may produce or increase the risk of cancer.
Air Act (CAA)
A Federal law that gives EPA authority to set standards for air quality and to control the release of airborne chemicals from industries, power plants, and cars.
Water Act (CWA)
A Federal law that regulates the pollution that will reach surface waters (rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams). The law prohibits a point source from discharging pollutants into the water unless the discharge meets certain permit requirements.
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
A Federal law, enacted in 1980 and nicknamed "Superfund," that provides the authority through which the Federal government can compel people or companies responsible for creating hazardous waste sites to clean them up. It also created a public trust fund, known as the Superfund, to assist with the cleanup of inactive and abandoned hazardous waste sites or accidentally spilled or illegally dumped hazardous materials.
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information
A database that supports EPA headquarters and regional implementation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986. It contains information on site inspections, preliminary assessments, remedial information, and emergency and non-emergency clean-up activities for all hazardous substance/waste sites evaluated under the Superfund Program, including Federal facilities. In addition, CERCLIS contains information about all potential Superfund sites, as well as "Proposed" and "Final" sites that have been listed on the National Priorities List (NPL).
The amount of a chemical in a given volume of air, water, or other medium. An example is 15 parts of carbon in a million parts of air.
A measure of how much of a contaminant is present.
Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL)
Liquid contaminants that are relatively insoluble and heavier than water; also known as sinkers because they will sink to the bottom of an aquifer, where they become especially difficult to detect and clean up.
A specialized community, including all the component organisms, that forms an interacting system; for example, a marsh, a shoreline, a forest.
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
A Federal law, also known as SARA Title III, that was enacted in November 1986. This law provides an infrastructure at the state and local levels to plan for chemical emergencies. Facilities that store, use, or release certain chemicals may be subject to various reporting requirements. Reported information is then made publicly available so that interested parties may become informed about potentially dangerous chemicals in their community.
Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA)
A study conducted as part of a non-time critical short-term cleanup. The EE/CA identifies the objectives of the cleanup and analyzes various cleanup alternatives in terms of cost, effectiveness, and ease of implementation. The EE/CA is made available for public review and comment, prior to the publication of an action memorandum, which outlines the selected cleanup method.
Study of causes of disease or toxic effects in human populations.
insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
A Federal law that requires labels on pesticides that provide clear directions for safe use; FIFRA also authorizes EPA to set standards to control how pesticides are used.
Ranking System (HRS)
The method EPA uses to assess and score the hazards posed by a site that takes into account the nature and extent of contamination and the potential for the hazardous substances to migrate from the site through air, soil, surface water, or groundwater; HRS scores are used to determine whether a site should be placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).
By-products or waste materials of manufacturing and other processes that have some dangerous property; generally categorized as corrosive, ignitable, toxic, or reactive, or in some way harmful to people or the environment.
Scientific evaluation of the probability of harm resulting from exposure to hazardous materials.
Metals such as lead, chromium, copper, and cobalt that can be toxic at relatively low concentrations.
A set of information, technical reports, and reference documents regarding a Superfund site; it usually is located in a public building that is convenient for local residents, such as a public school, city hall, or public library.
New and creative methods used to effectively treat hazardous waste.
Molecules that consist of chemical combinations of two or more elements that are not carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, or nitrogen.
Under Superfund, a party responsible for the presence of hazardous waste at a site is also legally responsible for acting and paying to reduce or eliminate the risks posed by the site.
A response action that eliminates or reduces a release or threatened release of hazardous substances that is a serious but not an immediate danger to people or the environment. This action, also known as a Remedial Action (RA), may take years to complete.
The movement of a contaminant from one place to another.
A well drilled at a hazardous waste management facility or Superfund site to collect groundwater samples for analysis to determine the amounts, types, and distribution of contaminants in the groundwater beneath the site.
Garbage that is disposed of in a sanitary or municipal solid waste landfill.
Causing alteration in the DNA (genes or chromosomes) of an organism.
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Basic
Provides funding to 18 programs at 70 universities and institutions around the United States to study the human health effects of hazardous substances in the environment, especially those found at uncontrolled, leaking, waste disposal sites.
Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP)
The federal government's blueprint for responding to both oil spills and hazardous substance releases. The NCP is the result of efforts to develop a national response capability and promote overall coordination among the hierarchy of responders and contingency plans.
Priorities List (NPL)
EPA's list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites, identified as candidates for long-term cleanup using money from the Superfund trust fund.
A type of short-term cleanup in which, based on an evaluation of the site, EPA determines that more than six months is available before on-site activities must begin. A non-time-critical action includes a more extensive study of the contamination and cleanup options, called an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA), and more formal public participation prior to the publishing of an action memorandum authorizing and outlining the cleanup plan.
of Site Remediation and Restoration (OSRR)
The EPA New England office that oversees the following programs: Superfund, Brownfields, Oil Spill, RCRA Corrective Action, and Underground Storage Tanks.
Pollution Act (OPA)
A Federal law that was signed into law in August 1990, largely in response to rising public concern following the Exxon Valdez incident. The OPA improved the nation's ability to prevent and respond to oil spills by establishing provisions that expand the federal government's authority, and provide the money and resources necessary, to respond to oil spills. The OPA also created the national Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is available to provide up to one billion dollars per spill incident.
and Maintenance (O&M)
Activities that protect the integrity of the selected remedy for a site. O&M measures are initiated by a State after the remedy has achieved the Remedial Action (RA) objectives and remediation goals outlined in the Record of Decision (ROD), and is determined to be operational and functional (O&F) based on State and Federal agreement.
Molecules that typically contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, or nitrogen.
The movement of water downward and radially through subsurface soil layers, usually continuing downward toward groundwater.
Responsible Parties (PRPs)
Any individual or company who may have contributed to contamination at a Superfund site. Under CERCLA, PRPs are expected to conduct or pay for site cleanup.
The process of collecting and reviewing available information about a known or suspected hazardous waste site or release that is used to determine if the site requires further study.
A Superfund site cleanup strategy prepared by EPA that is subject to public comments.
One of four categories of hazardous waste; substances capable of changing into something else in the presence of other chemicals, usually violently or producing a hazardous by-product.
of Decision (ROD)
A public document that explains which cleanup alternatives will be used to clean up a Superfund site. The ROD for sites listed on the National Priorities List (NPL) is created from information generated during the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS).
When a hazardous substance goes from a controlled condition (for example, inside a truck, barrel, storage tank, or landfill) to an uncontrolled condition in the air, water, or land.
The phase in Superfund site cleanup following the Remedial Design (RD) phase where the actual construction or implementation occurs. The RA is based on the specifications described in the Record of Decision (ROD).
The phase in Superfund site cleanup where the technical specifications for cleanup remedies and technologies are designed. The RD is based on the specifications described in the Record of Decision (ROD).
Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS)
Performed at the site after a site is listed on the National Priorities List (NPL). The RI serves as the mechanism for collecting data. The FS is the mechanism for the development, screening, and detailed evaluation of alternative remedial actions. The RI and FS are conducted concurrently; data collected in the RI influence the development of remedial alternatives in the FS, which in turn affect the data needs and scope of treatability studies and additional field investigations.
See short-term cleanup.
Amount of a pollutant remaining in the environment after a natural or technological process has taken place (e.g., the level of chemical remaining in soil after it has been treated).
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
A Federal law whose primary goals are to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal, conserve energy and natural resources, reduce the amount of waste generated, and ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner. Management of solid waste (e.g., garbage), hazardous waste, and underground storage tanks holding petroleum products or certain chemicals is regulated by RCRA.
An action taken by EPA or another Federal, state, or local agency to address the risks posed by the release or threatened release of hazardous substances--generally categorized as emergency response, short-term cleanup, and long-term cleanup.
Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
A Federal law that ensures that our tap water is fit to drink. Passed in 1974, SDWA sets national drinking water standards for public systems that deliver water to the tap. SDWA is used with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to protect and clean up groundwater by setting water quality standards.
The area below the water table where all open spaces are filled with water under pressure equal to or greater than that of the atmosphere.
Organic Compounds (SVOCs)
A group of chemicals composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen that have a tendency to evaporate (volatilize) into the air from water or soil. Some of the compounds that make up asphalt are examples of SVOCs.
A cleanup process that addresses immediate threats to public health and the environment that typically consist of less complex or less extensive contamination problems than those which require a long-term cleanup. There are three types of short-term cleanups: emergencies (e.g., fire or explosions), time-critical actions, and non-time-critical actions. Also referred to as removal actions.
The process by which EPA determines whether a potential site should be placed on the National Priorities List (NPL); it can consist of a Preliminary Assessment (PA) or a combination of a PA and a Site Inspection (SI).
A technical phase in Superfund site cleanup following the Preliminary Assessment (PA), during which EPA gathers information (including sampling data) from a site in order to use the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) to determine whether the site should be placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).
The design, manufacture, or use of products that in some way reduces the amount of waste that must be disposed of; examples include reuse of by-products, reducing consumption, extending the useful life of a product, and minimizing materials going into production.
Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC)
A plan that outlines how a facility will prevent oil spills, as well as how it plans to control and contain an oil spill to keep it from reaching surface water. Examples include: installing a secondary containment such as a dike, and making sure oil tanks are located within a fenced or locked area.
Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)
Amended the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) on October 17, 1986. SARA reflected EPA's experience in administering the complex Superfund program during its first six years and made several important changes and additions to the program.
A public trust fund created with passage of CERCLA in 1980 to be used to help pay for the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites.
A type of short-term cleanup in which, based on an evaluation of the site, EPA determines that less than six months is available before site activities must be initiated. During time-critical actions, EPA conducts an investigation of the contamination and produces an action memorandum authorizing and outlining the cleanup before beginning the actual cleanup.
Release Inventory (TRI)
EPA requires annual reports of toxic chemical releases to the environment. These reports are submitted on EPA Form R, the TRI Reporting Form. The reports are required to provide the public with information on the releases of listed toxic chemicals in their communities and to provide EPA with release information to assist the Agency in determining the need for future regulations.
Substances Control Act (TSCA)
A Federal law, passed in 1976, that requires tests of chemicals that may harm human health or the environment; reviews of new chemical substances; limits on the availability of some existing chemicals; and import certification standards to ensure that imported chemicals comply with domestic rules. TSCA bars the introduction of chemicals that may pose unreasonable risks to people or the environment, when the risks outweigh possible economic and social benefits.
Study of the effects of poisons in living organisms.
Processes applied to hazardous waste or contaminated materials, to permanently alter their condition through chemical, biological, or physical means, and reduce or eliminate their danger to people and the environment.
Storage Tank (UST)
An underground tank storing hazardous substances or petroleum products. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Congress directed EPA to establish regulatory programs that would prevent, detect, and clean up releases from UST systems containing petroleum or hazardous substances.
The area above the water table where soil pores are not fully saturated, although some water may be present.
Organic Compounds (VOCs)
A group of chemicals composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen that have a tendency to evaporate (volatilize) into the air from water or soil. VOCs include substances that are contained in common solvents and cleaning fluids. Some VOCs are known to cause cancer.
The top of the water-saturated portion of an aquifer.