The Superfund remedial process begins once sites are brought to the attention of the Superfund site assessment program. As 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 (NPL) is the most efficient option to achieve cleanup, EPA evaluates several other options for addressing site issues. Below, you will find descriptions of each of these cleanup options and links to external Web pages for additional information.
- National Priorities List
- EPA Emergency Response and Removals
- Superfund Alternative Approach
- Other Cleanup Actions (State/Tribal/Other Federal Agency)
- Deferred to RCRA
- Deferred to NRC
National Priorities List
The National Priorities List (NPL) is a list of national priorities among the known or threatened releases of hazardous substances, 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 updated annually. It helps the EPA determine 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. For more information on the NPL and the cleanup process NPL sites must follow, see the following links:
EPA Emergency Response and Removals
Removal actions are quick responses to immediate threats from hazardous substances 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. Examples 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 relocation area residents if necessary.
Superfund Alternative Approach
When a liable Potential Responsible Party (PRP) demonstrates it is viable and cooperative, the 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 the EPA’s Compliance and Enforcement Office’s SAA webpage.
Other Cleanup Actions (State/Tribal/Other Federal Agency)
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 the EPA’s Superfund Enterprise Management System (SEMS) (previously CERCLIS database). The 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 are those owned by other agencies of the federal government. Federal facilities that need long-term cleanup attention may be addressed under another federal agency’s environmental cleanup program. Non-NPL federal facilities tracked in the EPA’s SEMS database are assigned a status of “Other Cleanup Activity: Federal Facility Lead”. The EPA periodically checks in with other federal agencies on the status of cleanup work at these sites.
Deferred to RCRA
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) governs the federal management of solid waste, hazardous waste facilities and underground storage tanks holding petroleum products or certain chemicals. It is the EPA’s policy to defer placing sites on the NPL that can be comparably addressed under RCRA Subtitle C Corrective Action authorities. There are certain exceptions to this policy. Sites not subject to Subtitle C will continue to be considered for NPL listing.
Deferred to NRC
It is the EPA’s policy to not list releases of source, byproduct, 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 NRC-licensed but the NRC does not have authority to require cleanup, the site will not be deferred from NPL listing.