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Cleanup Alternatives

The Superfund remedial process begins once sites are brought to the attention of the Superfund site assessment program. As the EPA uses all available tools to ensure the protection of human health and the environment, various avenues for site cleanup are evaluated during site assessment to determine which is the most appropriate to meet site cleanup needs.

In addition to determining whether placing a site on the National Priorities List is the most efficient option to achieve site cleanup, the EPA evaluates a number of other options for addressing site issues. Below, you will find descriptions of each of these site cleanup options and links to external web pages for additional information.

The National Priorities List (NPL) is a list of national priorities among the known or threatened releases of hazardous substance, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States. The list, which is appendix B of the NCP (40 CFR part 300), was required under Superfund law. The NPL is required to be revised annually and it is intended primarily to guide EPA in determining which sites warrant further investigation to assess the nature and extent of public health and environmental risks associated with a release of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.

When a liable Potential Responsible Party (PRP) demonstrates it is viable and cooperative, EPA regional offices, at their discretion, may enter into a Superfund Alternative Approach (SAA) agreement with the PRP to facilitate the cleanup of a site. To view a list of all sites currently being managed under these agreements, please visit EPA's Compliance and Enforcement Office's Superfund Alternative Approach webpage.

Sites completing the Superfund assessment process and determined to need long-term cleanup attention may be addressed under a State or Tribal environmental cleanup program. Those that require no EPA financing, enforcement, or other substantial involvement are assigned a status of "Other Cleanup Activity: State/Tribal Lead" in EPA's CERCLIS database. EPA periodically checks in with State and Tribal regulators on the status of cleanup work at these sites. Should conditions change such that Federal Superfund involvement becomes necessary, EPA will work with its State and Tribal partners to determine next steps and revise the site status accordingly.

Federal Facility sites completing the Superfund assessment process and determined to need long-term cleanup attention may be addressed under another Federal agency's environmental cleanup program. Federal facilities that are tracked in EPA's CERCLIS database and are being cleaned up off of the NPL are assigned a status of "Other Cleanup Activity: Federal Facility Lead". EPA periodically checks in with other Federal agencies on the status of cleanup work at these sites.

Removal actions are quick responses to immediate threats from hazardous substances in order to eliminate dangers to the public. Typical situations requiring removal actions include chemical fires or explosions, threats to people from exposure to hazardous substances, or contamination of drinking water supplies. Types of removal actions include removing and disposing of hazardous substances, constructing a fence or taking security precautions to limit human access to a site, providing a temporary alternative water supply to local residents when drinking water is contaminated, and temporarily relocating area residents if necessary.

It is the EPA's policy to defer placing sites on the NPL that can be comparably addressed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C corrective action authorities. There are certain exceptions to this policy and sites not subject to Subtitle C will continue to be considered for NPL listing.

It is EPA's policy not to list releases of source, by-product, or special nuclear material from any facility with a current license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) because the NRC has full authority to require cleanup of releases from such facilities. If a facility is licensed by the NRC, but the NRC does not have authority to require cleanup, the site will not be deferred from NPL listing.

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