EPA Celebrates Superfund - 40 Years of Cleaning Up and Transforming Communities Across the Country
WASHINGTON (December 11, 2020) — This month, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marks its 50th anniversary, we also celebrate one of the cornerstone environmental laws– the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) – commonly known as Superfund. Enacted on December 11, 1980, Superfund authorized the nation’s signature land contamination cleanup program and has served as a model of environmental protection around the globe. Under the Trump Administration, the Superfund program has re-emerged as a priority to fulfill the Agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment by addressing environmental issues communities across the country are facing on a daily basis.
"In honor of Superfund's 40th anniversary and EPA's 50th anniversary this month, we're taking this opportunity to look back on the events that spurred the program's creation and its evolution," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "The Trump Administration has reinvigorated the Superfund program, deleting all or part of 82 sites from the National Priorities List and returning the land to surrounding communities for safe and productive reuse."
During the last four years alone, EPA has deleted all or part of 82 sites from the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL), the same number of deletions in the eight years prior (2008-2016). In Fiscal Year 2020, the Agency deleted all or part of 27 sites from the NPL. This marks the third year in a row that EPA has deleted a historically high number of Superfund sites, sending a clear message that protecting human health and the environment by addressing contaminated land across the country is a priority and paving the way for redeveloping Superfund sites into community assets.
“The Superfund program has been a cornerstone in EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment during the past 40 years,” said EPA Assistant Administrator Peter Wright. “During the past four years, we have emphasized the importance that accelerating and completing Superfund remedial work has on increasing the quality of life and revitalizing communities, and we celebrate the amazing work of our emergency responders who have tirelessly aided the recovery effort in communities impacted by natural disasters and releases.”
For the past 40 years, EPA’s Superfund program has worked and continues to fulfill its mission of protecting human health and the environment. Today, working with states, tribes and responsible parties, we continue to advance and improve the program. Building on the important work of the past, EPA is cleaning up the nation's most hazardous and contaminated sites and is revitalizing and returning previously hazardous, abandoned and written-off land to communities.
In honor of the 40th anniversary milestone, EPA invites the public to travel back to the 1970s with photos and videos showing the nation's awakening to the public health crisis caused by land contamination — the precursor to the Superfund program's creation — by clicking here . Beginning with the discovery that homes were built upon an industrial dump site at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, the nation turned its attention to the need to better manage hazardous waste, which led to the creation of the Superfund program. Since this time, the Superfund program has cleaned up thousands of sites across the country. Today, the Superfund program continues to build on the improvements made through the decades to clean up the nation’s most contaminated sites, improve public health and the environment and revitalize communities.
Cleaning up Superfund sites has helped communities turn abandoned, contaminated industrial sites into parks, landfills into solar farms, and former smelters into health clinics, many of which are located in vulnerable, low-income, and minority communities.
Other advancements during the last four years include the creation and utilization of the Administrator's Emphasis List, which has proven to be an effective tool for promoting more timely and effective cleanups. Since its creation in 2017, 20 sites have been removed from the list after achieving critical milestones that furthered site cleanup or solved issues slowing the pace of progress at a site. With the most recent Administrator's Emphasis List update, there are a total of 14 Superfund sites and one project currently on the list.
In addition, EPA's Superfund Task Force , commissioned on May 22, 2017, brought together EPA’s career staff and leaders to review the program and implement process improvements to more efficiently and effectively remediate Superfund sites and to accelerate the path to redevelopment and safe, productive reuse. EPA continues to institutionalize these improvements while identifying and implementing new opportunities and approaches for further program refinement.
Overall, the work of the Task Force paved the way for the Superfund program to continue to evolve and strive for new ways to better protect the health and improve the well-being of communities living near Superfund sites.
Today, Superfund cleanups include everything from cleaning up spills from train derailments to removing abandoned drums from long-closed and abandoned warehouses. The program also investigates and cleans up more widespread and complex contamination caused by decades of waste disposal that is often found in rivers and lakes.
Generally, Superfund allows EPA to clean up contaminated sites and compels the parties responsible for the contamination to either perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work. Since the creation of the Superfund program, EPA, other federal agencies, states and private parties have spent billions of dollars cleaning up these contaminated sites.
For more information about EPA’s Superfund program, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund