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Addressing Asbestos at Superfund Sites


The U.S. EPA Superfund program was established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites, and it allows EPA to clean up certain hazardous wastes sites or to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

In some cases, asbestos in the environment which is there as a result of past industrial operations or improper waste disposal practices may be addressed through the Superfund Program. Asbestos has been used in the manufacture of a range of building materials and commercial products, and may still be used in certain applications. Manufacturing facilities and processing facilities for asbestos products or other products known to contain asbestos (such as vermiculite) may be a source of asbestos in the environment unrelated to areas where it is a naturally occurring substance. Additionally the asbestos products themselves may become a source of asbestos in the environment where material deteriorates, or a building is demolished without first properly removing the asbestos-containing material. Where the asbestos is naturally occurring or there is concern regarding asbestos from in-place building materials, response actions to address these sites under Superfund are expressly limited under CERCLA §104(a)(3), 42 U.S.C. §9604(a)(3). For these cases, site-specific conditions are reviewed by EPA to determine if a removal or response action under CERCLA is appropriate. In most cases, removal of asbestos-containing building materials in place is regulated through a different EPA program, Section 112 of the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air pollutants (NESHAPs).

Asbestos contamination may be addressed under the removal or remediation programs as outlined in Superfund. Consistent with addressing other contaminants under Superfund, actions taken for asbestos contaminated sites are informed by estimates of the health risk from site contamination for current and future land use (OSWER Directive, EPA 2004). To aid in risk-based site evaluation, the EPA has developed the Framework for Investigating Asbestos-Contaminated Superfund Sites (PDF) (71 pp, 849K) OSWER Directive 9200.0-68, September 2008.

In the past, EPA response actions were often taken when materials containing greater than 1 percent asbestos were present. However, asbestos in soils at and below 1% may still pose unacceptable health risks depending on site-specific conditions and land use (EPA 2004, EPA 2008). Current EPA policy recommends development of site-specific, risk-based action levels to determine if response actions should be taken when asbestos levels below 1 percent are found at a site (OSWER Directive, EPA 2004).

National Policy Directives for Asbestos

    

National Policy Directives for Asbestos

Technical Resources

    

Technical Resources

Framework for Investigating Asbestos-Contaminated Sites

    

Framework for Investigating Asbestos-
Contaminated Sites

Examples of Superfund Site Cleanups

    

Examples of Superfund Site Cleanups

Technical Assistance

    

Technical Assistance



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