Region 8

Superfund Preliminary Assessment Process

If you have reason to believe your immediate environment may be contaminated by the release of hazardous waste, please call the National Response Center Hotline at 800-424-8802. The hotline may be used to report a hazardous waste emergency. You can also discuss your concerns directly with an EPA Site Assessment Manager, or you can submit a Preliminary Assessment Petition to EPA. In a Preliminary Assessment (PA), EPA determines whether a hazardous waste at a site comes under Superfund. PAs are conducted by EPA or its representatives and usually result when a person or organization calls the agency's attention to a hazardous-substance release. (The term "release" includes any means by which a substance could harm the environment—by spilling, leaking, discharging, dumping, injecting or escaping.) The purpose of a PA is to see if a threat does exist and what further action should be taken. If the PA shows that there is a serious immediate threat, EPA may use Superfund money to quickly remove the hazard. If the threat is not immediate, EPA will conduct more thorough studies and use the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) to decide the best way to deal with the problem. Naturally, if no danger exists, no further action will be taken. The Superfund Basics section entitled How Sites Get onto the NPL describes the HRS.

Why Would You Submit a Preliminary Assessment Petition?

Hazardous substances may threaten an individual's health, property and environment. By reporting such releases and petitioning for PAs to be conducted people can help themselves, their communities and the country. In 1986, Congress formalized the process [now CERCLA Section 105(d)] allowing any person or organization to request an EPA investigation of possibly hazardous wastes. You can ask the federal government to conduct a PA of a suspected hazardous release by sending in a PA petition.

What Information Goes into a PA Petition?

Although petitions do not have to follow this format exactly, each petition must contain the following information:

  • The full name, address, phone number and signature of the person submitting the petition.
  • The location of the actual/potential release, which is also called the "site."
  • Because people reviewing the petition or conducting the PA may not be familiar with the site, its location should be described as exactly as possible. For example, marking the location on a street map or drawing a more detailed map (showing the release area, landmarks and distances) would help EPA find and respond to the potential problem. If a map cannot be provided, the site should be described by giving its distance (as accurately as possible) from nearby roads (using street names or route numbers), buildings and other easily noticeable objects.
  • A description of how you are, or may be, affected by the release. For example, a release may cause unpleasant smells, bad-tasting well water, animal injuries, damaged trees and plants, as well as body rashes and other physical symptoms. These factors may affect a person's health and cost money. You can clarify the seriousness of the problem and its potential effects by describing your location in relation to the area of the release, and how you came in contact with or became aware of it.

The name, address and telephone number of the person submitting/reporting information on the PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT PETITION will be withheld from release to the public under the authority defined by the Freedom of Information Act's Exemption 6 "Personal Privacy," Exemption 7(c) "Unwanted Invasion of Privacy," and Exemption 7(d) "Confidential Source."

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