Asbestos at Superfund Sites
EPA’s Superfund program addresses abandoned hazardous waste sites. The Agency can clean up sites or compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanups under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Asbestos in the environment may be addressed by the Superfund program if it is the result of past industrial operations or improper waste disposal. For a long time, asbestos was part of many building materials and commercial products, and may still be used in some applications. Asbestos became a popular product because it is strong, won’t burn, resists corrosion and insulates well.
Manufacturing and processing facilities are often a source of asbestos, as are other products known to contain asbestos (such as vermiculite). Asbestos products may also deteriorate over time, or buildings may be demolished without first properly removing the asbestos-containing material. In some places, asbestos is a naturally occurring substance. EPA’s Web page provides more asbestos-related information for communities, schools, building owners and managers, and asbestos professionals:
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, EPA reviews site-specific conditions 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. To aid in risk-based site evaluation, EPA has developed a framework for investigating asbestos-contaminated Superfund sites.
In the past, EPA response actions often addressed conditions where materials containing greater than 1 percent asbestos were present. However, asbestos in soils at and below 1 percent may still pose unacceptable health risks depending on site-specific conditions and land use. Current EPA policy OSWER Directive 9345.4-05 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.