SUPERFUND FACT BOOK
CRS Report for Congress
Superfund Fact Book
Updated January 27, 1999
Analyst in Environmental Policy
Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division
David M. Bearden
Environmental Information Analyst
Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
This fact book is a compendium of data and other pertinent information about EPA's
Superfund program to clean up the nation's most threatening hazardous waste sites. The
topics covered include program funding, number of sites, the National Priorities List,
liability, remedies, costs, waste at Superfund sites, settlements, assessments of natural
resource damages, land use, public health issues, state Superfund programs, and a glossary
of Superfund terms. This product will be updated periodically. (For a current discussion
of policy issues and legislation, see CRS Issue Brief IB10011, Superfund Reauthorization
Issues in the 106th Congress, by Mark Reisch.)
Superfund Fact Book
The Superfund program is the principal federal effort for cleaning up hazardous
waste sites and protecting public health and the environment from releases of
hazardous substances. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation,
and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) established the program, and the Superfund
Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) amended it. This report is
a compendium of data and other pertinent information about CERCLA and the
Superfund program, followed by a glossary.
The law's strict, joint and several, and retroactive liability regime requires
responsible parties to pay for cleaning up a site. However, CERCLA established the
Hazardous Substance Superfund Trust Fund to pay for cleanups where a financially
viable party cannot be found. The trust fund has raised about $1.5 billion per year
for cleanup activities, primarily from excise taxes on petroleum and specified
chemical feedstocks, and from a corporate environmental income tax, all of which
expired on December 31, 1995. The trust fund also pays for the Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA) enforcement, management activities, and research and
development. For FY1999, Congress enacted appropriations of $1.5 billion for the
Superfund program (P.L. 105-276).
The National Priorities List (NPL) tracks the sites that most seriously threaten
public health and the environment. As of September 29, 1998, the NPL contained
a total of 1,260 final and proposed sites, of which 162 were federal facilities and
1,098 were non-federal sites. The Construction Completion List (CCL) catalogs NPL
sites where physical construction is complete for all necessary cleanup and removal
actions. As of September 29, 1998, there were 535 sites on the CCL. EPA has
deleted a total of 176 sites from the NPL because response actions are complete.
In addition to being responsible for cleanup costs, polluters also must pay to
restore natural resource damages at Superfund sites. As of July 1996, federal
agencies had completed settlements for natural resource damage claims with
responsible parties at 67 sites for a total of $117.6 million. In March 1996, the
federal government filed the largest natural resource damage claim to date for a total
of $970 million against several mining companies for contamination in the Coeur
d'Alene River Basin in Idaho. Negotiations over the claim are continuing.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry assesses the impact of
hazardous substance releases on public health. As of February 1997, the agency had
completed 1,776 public health assessments at Superfund sites.
The number of state programs that clean up hazardous waste sites has increased
in recent years, and each state has enacted its own enforcement authority. At the end
of 1997, the states reported nearly 24,000 potentially hazardous sites warranting
attention. All states, except for Nebraska and the District of Columbia, have
established their own funds to pay for cleanup activities. The total balance of all
state funds at the end of FY1997 was roughly $1.4 billion, of which states spent
about $565 million for cleanup activities in FY1997.
Superfund Trust Fund..........................................2
Number of Sites...................................................7
National Priorities List..............................................7
Construction Completions and Deletions...........................9
Number of Superfund Sites by State or Territory....................10
Length of Time to Remediation..................................17
Stages of Remediation.........................................17
EPA Enforcement and Costs to (PRPs)............................20
Operation and Maintenance Costs................................22
Waste at Superfund Sites...........................................24
De Minimis Settlements............................................26
Orphan Share Settlements..........................................28
Natural Resource Damages.........................................28
Public Health Issues and the Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry............................30
Public Health Assessments.....................................31
Overall Assessment of Public Health Impact.......................32
State Superfund Programs..........................................33
Number of State Superfund Sites.................................33
State Cleanup Funds..........................................34
Status of State Cleanup Activities................................35
State Cleanup Standards.......................................35
State Liability Standards.......................................35
Natural Resource Damages at State Sites..........................36
Selected Superfund Internet Resources................................36
EPA and Other Federal Agencies................................36
State Government Organizations.................................37
Public Policy and Research Organizations.........................37
Community Interest and Information Groups.......................38
EPA Superfund Hotline............................................38
Glossary of Superfund Terms.......................................39
List of Figures
Figure 1. Superfund Appropriations: FY1981 to FY1999...................6
Figure 2. FY1999 Superfund Appropriation.............................6
Figure 3. Status of the National Priorities List as of September 29, 1998.......8
Figure 4. Status of Remedy Selection at NPL Sites at the End of FY1997.....16
Figure 5. Stages of Remediation at the End of FY1997...................18
Figure 6. Legal Expenses as a Share of Total Costs at Superfund Sites.......21
Figure 7. Operation and Maintenance Activities at Superfund Sites..........24
Figure 8. Public Health Assessments at Superfund Sites: 1992-1997.........31
List of Tables
Table 1. Superfund Corporate Environmental Income Taxes Paid by
Industrial Sectors in 1995.......................................3
Table 2. Superfund Corporate Environmental Income Taxes Paid by
Selected Major Industries in 1995.................................3
Table 3. Superfund Appropriations: FY1981-FY1999.....................5
Table 4. Number of Final and Proposed Superfund Sites by State
as of September 29, 1998.......................................11
Table 5. Common Sources of Waste at Superfund Sites..................25
Table 6. Types of Contaminants Commonly Found at Superfund Sites.......25
Table 7. Common Chemicals Found at Superfund Sites..................26
Table 8. Five Largest Natural Resource Damage Settlements at Superfund Sites
as of July 1996...............................................29
Table 9. On-Site and Surrounding Land Uses at Superfund Sites...........30
Table 10. Common Sources of Funding for State Cleanup
Activities in FY1997..........................................34
Superfund Fact Book
CRS has prepared this fact book to assist Members and Committees of
Congress and their staffs in considering Superfund reauthorization legislation. For
a current discussion of policy issues and legislation, see CRS Issue Brief IB10011,
Superfund Reauthorization Issues in the 106th Congress, by Mark Reisch. Other CRS
products on Superfund include:
!CRS Report 97-731 ENR. Superfund and the Brownfields Issue. by Mark
!CRS Report 98-136 A. Superfund Act Reauthorization: Liability Issues. by
!CRS Report 97-914 ENR. Superfund Cleanup Standards Reconsidered. by
Mark Reisch and David M. Bearden.
!CRS Report 97-953 ENR. Superfund and States: The State Role and Other
Issues. by Claudia Copeland.
!CRS Report 96-774 E. Taxes to Finance Superfund. by Salvatore Lazzari.
On December 11, 1980, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to create the Superfund
hazardous substance cleanup program.1 The Superfund Amendments and
Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) amended CERCLA to expand the program's
scope.2 The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 extended the law's taxing
authority to December 31, 1995, which expired at the end of 1991 under SARA.3
CERCLA's impetus was the emerging realization that hazardous waste sites
presented great risk to public health and the environment in all parts of the nation,
that state and local governments did not have the capability to respond, and that
1 P.L. 96-510, 94 Stat. 2767. CERCLA, as amended, is codified at 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675.
2 P.L. 99-499, 100 Stat. 1613.
3 P.L. 101-508, §6301, 104 Stat. 1388-319.
existing federal environmental and disaster relief laws were inadequate. The Love
Canal site in Niagara Falls, New York, first brought the issue to national prominence
when the state health commissioner declared a state of emergency there on August
CERCLA's purpose is to authorize the federal government to respond swiftly
to hazardous substance emergencies and protect public health and the environment
by cleaning up the nation's worst hazardous waste sites. The law seeks to make those
responsible for the improper disposal of hazardous waste bear the costs and accept
responsibility for their actions, and it also established the Hazardous Substance
Superfund Trust Fund to finance response actions where a liable party cannot be
found or is incapable of paying cleanup costs.
Superfund Trust Fund
The Hazardous Substance Superfund Trust Fund has traditionally provided most
of the funding for the Superfund program. Appropriations from general tax revenues
have generally contributed $250 million annually to the program's operation as well.
Excise taxes imposed on the petroleum and chemical industries and an environmental
income tax on corporations maintained the Hazardous Substance Superfund Trust
Fund through December 31, 1995. Taxing authority for Superfund expired at the end
of 1995, and Congress has not enacted legislation to reauthorize the tax. FY1995
was the last full fiscal year in which the Department of the Treasury collected the tax.
However, interest and cost recoveries from responsible parties still generate a
moderate amount of income for the trust fund each year.
As of the end of FY1998, the unappropriated balance in the Hazardous
Substance Superfund Trust Fund was roughly $2.1 billion. Congress appropriated
$325 million from general tax revenues and nearly $1.2 billion from the trust fund
to support the Superfund program in FY1999, reducing the unappropriated trust fund
balance to approximately $900 million. The total amount of trust fund resources
available for appropriation at the beginning of FY2000 will depend how much
income is generated from interest and cost recoveries during FY1999.
In FY1995, the Hazardous Substance Superfund Trust Fund was supported by:
!a tax on domestically produced and imported oil (about $576 million);
!a tax on feedstock chemicals (about $291 million);
!a corporate environmental income tax (about $612 million);
!and cost recoveries, penalties, and interest on the trust fund.4
The Superfund corporate environmental income tax generated a total of $713.3
million in 1995, the last year that the tax was collected. Table 1, on the following
page, lists the major industrial sectors that contributed to the tax.
4U.S. Department of the Treasury. Financial Management Service. Hazardous Substance
Superfund Trust Fund (20X8145) Income Statement for the Period 10/01/94 Through
Table 1. Superfund Corporate Environmental Income Taxes
Paid by Industrial Sectors in 1995
Industrial Sector$ ThousandsPercentage
Manufacturing 305,868 42.9
Finance, insurance, and real estate188,66526.5
Transportation and public utilities113,38215.9
Services 31,201 4.4
Construction 3,255 0.5
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing1,0670.1
Table 2 lists selected major industries within the above industrial sectors that
contributed to the corporate environmental income tax in 1995.
Table 2. Superfund Corporate Environmental Income Taxes
Paid by Selected Major Industries in 1995
Chemical and allied products63,1078.8
Petroleum and coal products37,7435.3
Electrical and electronic equipment36,5015.1
Machinery, excluding electrical24,9773.5
Food and kindred products24,8423.5
Paper and allied products15,8912.2
Transportation and Public Utilities
Electric, gas, and sanitary services54,8727.7
Communication 43,402 6.1
Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate
Banking 74,769 10.5
Insurance 67,323 9.4
Credit agencies other than banks24,2323.4
Security, commodity brokers, and services11,7051.6
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the U.S. Department of the
Treasury. Internal Revenue Service. Source Book, Statistics of Income, 1995: Corporation
Income Tax Returns with Accounting Periods Ended July 1995 - June 1996. Publication
1053 (Revised March 1998). 536 p. The March 1998 revision of this publication reflects
the most recent data on the amount of the tax collected from the major industries.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the Superfund program, and
Congress appropriates the program's annual operating budget from the Superfund Trust
Fund in the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and
Independent Agencies appropriations bill. EPA does not have other access to the trust fund.
The same appropriations bill also provides monies from the trust fund for the Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and for the Superfund-related activities of the
Departments of Justice and Interior, the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration.
!Congress authorized a total of $1.6 billion for Superfund from FY1981 to
FY1985, a total of $8.5 billion from FY1986 to FY1991, and a total of $5.1
billion from FY1992 to FY1994. Congress has appropriated funding for
subsequent years without enacting reauthorizing legislation.
!For FY1981, Congress enacted appropriations of $40.3 million for Superfund,
and for FY1999, enacted appropriations of $1.5 billion. From FY1981 to
FY1999, Congress appropriated a total of $20.9 billion. (Refer to Table 3 and
!For the FY1999 enacted level of $1.5 billion, approximately 66.7% of the
appropriation is allocated for EPA response actions, 12.3% for enforcement,
and 2.7% for research and development. (Refer to Figure 2.)
!Environmental restoration, of which Superfund spending is a part, is an
expanding portion of the federal environmental budget. In addition to
Superfund, there are federal facility cleanup and restoration programs at the
Departments of Defense, Energy, and the Interior. (Refer to page 9 for a
discussion of federal facilities cleanup under the jurisdiction of these
Table 3. Superfund Appropriations: FY1981-FY1999
(millions of dollars)
Function FY1981 FY1982 FY1983 FY1984 FY1985 FY1986
esearch/Development 4 .7 13.8 6 .8 10.2 12.6 10.5
fo rcement 2 .5 8.4 17.7 26.7 48.7 52.1
agement/Support 2 .3 9.5 11.4 17.2 25.2 30.8
30.8 149.0 166.2 366.4 510.5 292.7
Function FY1987 FY1988 FY1989 FY1990 FY1991 FY1992 FY1993
esearch/Development 38.7 58.2 68.1 64.2 72.9 64.7 68.2
fo rcement 100.3 122.9 132.6 121.9 174.9 182.0 175.3
agement/Support 71.2 99.2 102.7 112.5 131.2 124.3 132.8
esponse Actions 824.6847.51,121.71,262.21,250.31,262.71,224.9
773.3 763.4 1 ,027.2 1 ,149.6 1 ,116.8 1 ,114.0 1 ,072.9
eragency 51.3 84.1 94.5 112.6 133.5 148.7 152.0
To t a l
fo rcement 180.3 177.3 203.2 171.2 183.7 184.0 2 ,265.7
agement/Support 118.3 130.9 139.2 126.0 130.0 130.0 1 ,644.7
976.9 888.5 1 ,073.6 1 ,032.0 1 ,009.5 1 ,000.0 14,513.3
eragency 159.1 168.6 118.0 146.0 141.8 146.0 1 ,762.6
the Congressional Research Service with data from Environmental Protection Agency budget justification documents.
Figure 1. Superfund Appropriations: FY1981 to FY1999
2,000Total Enacted Appropriations = $20.9 Billion
1981 1984 1987 1990 1993 1996 1999
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the
Environmental Protection Agency.
Figure 2. FY1999 Superfund Appropriation
Total Appropriation = $1.5 billion
En f o rcemen t
12.3%$130 millionInteragency Response Actions
66.7%EPA Response Actions$1.0 billion
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data
from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Number of Sites
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability
Information System (CERCLIS) tracks sites that are brought to EPA's attention that
may warrant cleanup. A site's presence on CERCLIS does not determine a party's
liability for cleanup and does not indicate that cleanup is required. However, listing
a site on CERCLIS reportedly at times has carried a stigma by association with the
Superfund program, which has interfered with the sale or development of properties.
EPA had not removed any sites from CERCLIS until March 29, 1995, when
roughly 40,000 sites were listed. At that time, as part of EPA's brownfields agenda,
it began archiving sites it designated as No Further Response Action Planned
(NFRAP). As of December 2, 1998, there were a total of 10,411 sites listed in
CERCLIS, and a total of 31,463 sites had been transferred to the archived listing.
National Priorities List
CERCLA requires the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency
Plan to include a National Priorities List (NPL) of sites that pose the highest potential
threat to human health and the environment in the United States. CERCLA requires
EPA to revise the NPL at least annually. The NPL identifies sites that warrant further
evaluation but does not assign liability for a release of hazardous substances.
!There are three mechanisms for placing a site on the NPL:
1) The Hazard Ranking System (HRS) evaluates the potential threat of a
contaminated site to human health and the environment. Sites scoring higher
than 28.5 on the HRS scale are eligible for the NPL.
2) Regardless of a site's HRS score, a state may designate a site as its highest
priority for cleanup, making it eligible for the NPL.
3) A site can be placed on the NPL regardless of its HRS score if the Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has issued a health advisory for a site,
EPA determines a site to pose a significant threat to public health, or EPA
expects that using long-term remedial authority will be more cost-effective than
short-term removal authority to clean up a site.
!The NPL includes two sections. EPA has the authority to evaluate and clean
up non-federal sites listed in the general section, and other federal agencies
with sites in their jurisdictions have the authority to evaluate and clean up sites
listed in the federal facilities section. EPA is not the lead agency for federal
facilities but is responsible for preparing the HRS scores for these sites.
!As of September 29, 1998, there were 1,194 sites on the NPL, of which 153
were federal facilities and 1,041 were non-federal sites. EPA also proposed
to add 66 sites to the NPL, of which 9 were federal facilities and 56 were non-
federal sites. Final and proposed NPL sites totaled 1,260, of which 162 were
federal facilities and 1,098 were non-federal sites. 5
!The first listing in the Federal Register occurred on September 8, 1983, and
placed 406 sites on the NPL.6 Since the beginning of the Superfund program,
EPA has placed a total of 1,370 sites on the NPL. (Refer to Figure 3.)
!In 1994, GAO estimated that between 2,500 and 2,800 non-federal sites could
be added to the NPL from the inventory of CERCLIS sites under assessment
or awaiting evaluation, while EPA estimated that 1,700 sites could be added
through 2020. GAO also reported that the Congressional Budget Office
(CBO) projected a total of 3,300 sites could be added to the NPL by 2027.7
!A 1992 study indicated that 403 NPL sites involved local governments, either
as site owners, or as operators or transporters of waste to a site. The study
categorized 216 of these sites as landfills.8
Figure 3. Status of the National Priorities List as of September 29,
Total Number of Superfund Sites Listed Since September 8, 1983 = 1,370
176 Deleted Sites153 Federal Facilities(Cleanup Pending)
76.0%1,041 Non-Federal Sites(Cleanup Pending)
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the
Environmental Protection Agency.
5EPA. Federal Register. September 29, 1998. p. 51848-51853.
6EPA. Federal Register. September 8, 1983. p. 40658-40682.
7GAO. Superfund: Estimates of Number of Future Sites May Vary. GAO/RCED-95-18.
December 1994. p. 2.
8Clean Sites, Inc. Main Street Meets Superfund: Local Government Involvement at
Superfund Hazardous Waste Sites. January 1992. p. 16.
Construction Completions and Deletions
Construction completion at a site refers to the point in the cleanup process at
which physical construction is complete for all remedial and removal work
anticipated at the entire site. EPA places an NPL site on the Construction
Completion List (CCL) under one of three circumstances: 1) necessary physical
construction is complete; 2) response action does not involve construction (e.g.,
institutional controls); or 3) the site qualifies for deletion from the NPL.
!As of September 29, 1998, there were a total of 535 sites on the CCL. EPA
has deleted 176 of these sites from the NPL because response actions are
complete. Cleanup is pending at the remaining 359 sites on the NPL where
construction is complete.9
!In November 1995, EPA initiated a new policy as part of its second round of
administrative reforms to encourage economic redevelopment of sites. Under
this policy, portions of a site where cleanup is complete can be deleted from
the NPL and returned to productive use while cleanup on the rest of the site
continues. As of September 29, 1998, EPA had deleted portions of 11 NPL
!GAO reports that EPA expects to complete construction for all necessary
remedial and removal work at a total of 650 sites by the end of the year 2000,
assuming level funding.11 However, in 1994, a survey of site managers
projected a total of 965 construction completions during this same period.12
Federal agencies are responsible for cleaning up hazardous releases at sites on
their facilities. EPA maintains the Federal Facilities Docket to track facilities that
federal agencies have reported as warranting evaluation. Once a facility is placed on
the docket, the responsible agency must assess the site within 6 months to
characterize the contamination. If this assessment indicates potentially hazardous
levels of contamination, EPA evaluates the facility using the HRS to determine
whether to list the facility on the NPL. The responsible federal agency must develop
and implement a plan to clean up its facilities on the NPL and fund the remediation.
EPA oversees the development of the remedial plan and the cleanup activities.13
9EPA. Federal Register. September 29, 1998. p. 51850.
10Ib i d .
11GAO. Superfund: Times to Complete Site Listing and Cleanup. February 4, 1998.
GAO/T-RCED-98-74. p. 3.
12 EPA. Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER). Survey of NPL Site
Managers. January 28, 1994. EPA conducted this survey in response to 21 questions
submitted by Representatives Al Swift and John Dingell on July 19, 1993.
13 42 U.S.C. 9620. "Federal Facilities."
!As of November 23, 1998, there were 2,182 facilities on the Federal Facilities
Docket.14 Each facility typically has multiple sites that warrant evaluation.
As of September 29, 1998, EPA had placed 153 of the most potentially
hazardous federal facilities on the NPL.15
!The Departments of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE)
have the largest budgets for cleaning up federal facilities.16 The Department
of the Interior has fewer sites that require major response actions, and its
cleanup budget is relatively small compared to DOD and DOE.
!In 1996, the Federal Facilities Policy Group, an interagency committee,
estimated that the total future costs to complete cleanup actions at federal
facilities under the jurisdictions of the Departments of Defense, Energy, and
Interior could be between $235 and $389 billion. Of this total estimated cost,
Defense's share would be $31 billion, Energy's would be between $200 and
$350 billion, and Interior's would be between $4 and $8 billion.17
Number of Superfund Sites by State or Territory
Over the history of the Superfund program, every state and territory has had at
least one site listed on the NPL at some point in time. As of September 29, 1998,
there were a total of 1,260 final and proposed sites on the NPL. New Jersey had a
total of 111 final and proposed sites on the NPL, more than any other state. North
Dakota was the only state that did not have any sites on the NPL or proposed for
listing as of September 29, 1998. Table 4, on the following page, lists the number
of final and proposed NPL sites located within each state and U.S. territory. For
information on a specific site, refer to EPA's Superfund home page on the Internet
at http://www.epa.gov/superfund or contact the Superfund Hotline at 703-412-9810
in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area or toll free at 1-800-424-9346 outside of
the Washington area.
14 EPA. Federal Register. November 23, 1998. p. 64806-64818.
15EPA. Federal Register. September 29, 1998. p. 51850.
16For background and funding information on DOD and DOE's cleanup programs, refer to
CRS Report 97-790 ENR, Environmental Protection: Defense-related Programs, by David
17GAO. Federal Facilities: Consistent Relative Risk Evaluations Needed for Prioritizing
Cleanups. GAO/RCED-96-150. June 1996. p. 29.
Table 4. Number of Final and Proposed
Superfund Sites by State as of September 29, 1998
Territory Si t e s Si t e s Si t e s
Pennsyl va nia 94 6 100
California 73 23 96
Washington 33 14 47
Massachusetts 23 8 31
Connecticut 13 1 14
Territory Si t e s Si t e s Si t e s
District of Columbia011
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the Environmental
To increase the pace of remediation, reduce cleanup costs, and improve program
efficiency, EPA has conducted three rounds of Superfund reforms that consist of
various initiatives and pilots implemented within the existing statutory framework
!In June 1993, EPA introduced the first round of reforms to increase the pace
of site investigation and construction completion activities.
!In February 1995, EPA introduced the second round of reforms to address
concerns over enforcement, economic redevelopment of sites, community
involvement and outreach, environmental justice, consistent program
implementation, and state empowerment.
!In October 1995, EPA introduced the third and final round of reforms
consisting of 20 initiatives designed to make cost-effective cleanup choices
that protect public health and the environment, reduce the volume of litigation
and the amount of legal expenses, and ensure that states and communities are
more informed and involved in cleanup decisions.
EPA reports that the implementation of its reforms through the end of FY1997
has accomplished the following:
!reviewed and updated selected remedies at specific sites during 1996 and 1997
estimated to yield future cost savings of over $900 million in public and
private remediation expenses;
!more than doubled the pace of construction completions over 5 years from 217
in FY1993 to 498 in FY1997;
!removed over 15,000 small volume waste contributors from the liability
!evaluated and archived over 30,000 sites from CERCLIS; and
!negotiated settlements with responsible parties to perform or fund roughly18
A Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) is any individual or company that may
have contributed to contamination at a Superfund site. Examples of PRPs include
waste generators, waste transporters, current or former landowners, and site
18EPA. Office of Emergency and Remedial Response (OERR). Superfund Reforms FY1997
Annual Report. p. 2-4.
operators. Courts have interpreted liability provisions for Superfund remediations
under CERCLA to be strict, joint and several, and retroactive.
!Strict liability means the government needs to prove only involvement at a
waste site, not negligence. Under CERCLA, proof of strict causation is not
!Joint and several liability indicates that any involved party can have the legal
responsibility for cleaning up the entire site, regardless of its degree of
involvement, unless there is a reasonable basis for apportioning liability.
!Retroactive liability means that parties can be held liable for releases
resulting from actions prior to when Congress enacted CERCLA in 1980.
!The Asset Conservation, Lender Liability, and Deposit Insurance Protection
Act of 1996, P.L. 104-208, addressed lender liability. It protects lenders and
fiduciaries from CERCLA liability as long as they do not participate in the
management of a facility contaminated with hazardous substances. Lenders
at times have incurred liability after foreclosing on a contaminated property.
This law describes what actions a lender may take, which include activities
related to its financial interest, and appropriate response to a hazardous
CERCLA requires the lead agency for a site to select remedial actions that
protect human health and the environment, are cost-effective, and utilize permanent
solutions, alternative technologies, or resource recovery technologies to the
maximum extent practicable. To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a remedy, the
lead agency must consider the total short-term and long-term costs, including the
costs of operation and maintenance.19
CERCLA does not contain any cleanup standards but instead requires the lead
and support agencies for a site to select remedy standards that comply with other
existing federal environmental laws and regulations. CERCLA requires that the lead
and support agencies use "applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements"20
(ARARs) to select these standards.
19 42 U.S.C. 9621. "Cleanup Standards."
20 42 U.S.C. 9621(d). "Degree of Cleanup."
!Applicable requirements are federal or state cleanup standards that apply to
a specific hazardous substance, pollutant, contaminant, remedial action,21
location, or other circumstance found at a site.
!Relevant and appropriate requirements are cleanup standards that are not
specifically legally applicable to the site, but do address problems or situations
sufficiently similar to the circumstances of the release or to the contemplated
remedial action, that they can be considered both relevant and appropriate to
use at the site.22
!In addition to ARARs, the lead and support agencies for a site may identify
federal or state advisories, criteria, or guidance to be considered for a specific
release that may be useful in developing remedies.23
!The lead and support agencies for a site apply state standards to a remedy only
if they are more stringent than federal requirements, legally enforceable, and
brought to EPA's attention by the state in a timely manner.24
!Treatment means a process that significantly reduces the volume, toxicity, or
mobility of hazardous substances. Containment is a remediation method that
seals off all possible exposure pathways between a hazardous disposal site and
the environment, which generally includes capping and institutional controls.
Removal, or emergency removal, is an action taken by EPA under the
emergency removal provisions of CERCLA, which enables the agency to take
preliminary steps to clean up a site or reduce its danger when there is an
imminent and substantial threat to public health or the environment. An
emergency removal cannot exceed $2 million or one year for any one action
at any one site.
!The most recent data on the types of remedies selected were compiled in 1991.
At that time, EPA selected treatment as the remedy for 78% of sites with
ground water contamination, and 65% with surface water contamination.
When soil contamination occurred, EPA selected treatment at 50% of sites.
EPA tends to select containment remedies for large volumes of waste at sites
(for example, greater than one million cubic yards), and treatment remedies25
for small volumes of waste (less than 1,000 cubic yards).
21 40 CFR 300.400(g)(1). "Identification of applicable or relevant and appropriate
22 40 CFR 300.400(g)(2).
23 40 CFR 300.400(g)(3).
24 40 CFR 300.400(g)(4).
25 EPA. OERR. 1991.
!The emergency removal program responds to short-term emergencies at
hazardous waste disposal sites requiring immediate action. As of the end of
FY1998, approximately 5,500 emergency removal actions had been taken to
immediately reduce the threat to public health and the environment.26
!As of the end of FY1997, a total of 1,327 sites had been placed on the NPL.
GAO reports that EPA had completed the process of selecting remedies at 926
(70%) of these sites. EPA also had selected at least one remedy at another 222
(17%) sites. However, 133 (60%) of the sites with just one remedy selected
needed only one additional remedy to be chosen before cleanup could begin.
As of the end of FY1997, EPA had still not selected any remedies at the
remaining 179 (13%) sites listed on the NPL at that time.27
!GAO reports that the selection of remedies has been much slower at federal
facilities. By the end of FY1997, EPA had completed remedy selection at 36
(23%) of the 158 federal facilities on the NPL compared to 890 (76%) of the
1,169 non-federal sites. EPA attributed the slower progress at federal facilities
to more complex problems with contamination and the fact that federal
facilities were added to the NPL later than many of the non-federal sites.28
Figure 4. Status of Remedy Selection at NPL Sites at the End of
Total NPL Sites = 1,327
1,169 Non-Federal Sites158 Federal Sites
None SelectedSome SelectedNone SelectedAll Selected
143 Sites136 Sites36 Sites36 Sites
All Selected86 Sites
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the General Accounting Office.
26EPA. OERR. Superfund Facts: The Program at Work. September 1998.
27GAO. Superfund: Information on the Status of Sites. GAO/RCED-98-241. August 1998.
28Ib i d .
Length of Time to Remediation
!GAO reports that the average time to place a site on the NPL and complete
cleanup generally has increased over the life of the Superfund Program.29
!From 1986 to 1990, EPA took an average of 5.8 years from the time of site
discovery to investigate and process the non-federal sites that it added to the
NPL. By 1996, the average time to list a site on the NPL from the time of
discovery had increased to 9.4 years. GAO attributed increases in the time
required to place a site on the NPL to the backlog of sites awaiting processing
once investigation was complete.
!From 1986 to 1989, cleanup required an average of 3.9 years from the time
that EPA placed a site on the NPL. By 1996, the time required for cleanup
had more than doubled to an average of 10.6 years. EPA attributed increasing
cleanup times to the growing complexity of sites, lengthier negotiations to
reach settlements with PRPs, and resource constraints. GAO estimated that
in future years the average time required to clean up sites listed on the NPL as
of July 1, 1997, could exceed 8 years.
Stages of Remediation
At the end of FY1997, the status of the 1,397 Superfund sites (including final
and proposed sites) was:
!30 sites with remedial assessment not yet begun;
!25 sites with removal-only actions;
!180 sites where studies were underway;
!63 sites where remedies had been selected;
!124 sites where remedy designs were underway;
!477 sites where construction was underway; and
!498 sites where construction was complete for all necessary remedial and
removal actions.30 (535 sites as of September 29, 1998.) Refer to Figure 5 on
the following page.
29GAO. Superfund: Times to Complete Site Listing and Cleanup. GAO/T-RCED-98-74.
February 4, 1998. p. 1-2.
30EPA. OERR. Superfund Reforms FY1997 Annual Report. p. 2.
Figure 5. Stages of Remediation at the End of FY1997
Final and Proposed Sites = 1,397
180 Sites63 Sites
Study UnderwayRemedy Selected
8.9%1.8%Design Underway25 Sites
Construction Complete477 Sites
Assessment Not Yet Begun
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the
Environmental Protection Agency.
!A CBO study released in January 1994 estimated that it could take $75 billion
to clean up a total of 4,500 sites now in need of work (including current NPL
sites, and ones to be added in the future).31
!The Joint Institute for Energy & Environment (JIEE) estimated that cleanup
costs could be reduced by about 35% through increased use of institutional
controls and containment remedies (in place of destruction and isolation
technologies), while essentially protecting human health and the environment
at the same levels of safety.32
31 U.S. Congress. Congressional Budget Office. The Total Costs of Cleaning Up Non-
federal Superfund Sites. 1994.
32 Milton Russell and Kimberly L Davis. Resource Requirements for NPL Sites: Phase II
Interim Report. Knoxville, JIEE, September 1995. 60 p.
JIEE is a research consortium of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Valley
Authority, and the University of Tennessee. The authors "suggest that [these] study results
should supersede" those of the earlier studies in which they participated: M. Russell, E.W.
Colglazier, and M.R. English, Hazardous Waste Remediation: The Task Ahead; and E.W.
Colglazier, T. Cox, and K. Davis, Estimating Resource Requirements for NPL Sites.
Knoxville, University of Tennessee, Waste Management Research and Education Institute,
!The JIEE estimated total cleanup costs under this less stringent scenario to be
$34.1 billion for an NPL of 1,350 sites; $53.0 billion if there were 2,100 sites;
and $75.7 billion for 3,000 sites.33
!EPA last projected total funding requirements for the Superfund program in
its annual report to Congress for FY1994, which estimated total funding
requirements of $17.4 billion from FY1995 through future fiscal years, and a
future cumulative total of $31.0 billion in funding requirements since the
program's beginning in FY1981. (Thus far, Congress has appropriated a total
of $20.9 billion from FY1981 to FY1999. Refer to Table 3 and Figure 1 on
pages 5 and 6 respectively.) EPA based its estimates of future funding
requirements on the 1,290 final and proposed sites on the NPL as of the end34
!A 1994 survey of NPL site managers indicated that the average capital cost at
a non-federal site was $21.8 million. Site assessment, studies, and design
comprised 11% of total site costs, resulting in an average cost of $25 million.35
!A relatively small number of very expensive sites raised the average cost
significantly. Over 60% of all capital cleanup costs were accounted for by
only 16% of the operable units (OUs). An operable unit is a division of a site36
cleanup project; on average, there were 1.8 OUs at each non-federal site.
!69% of Superfund sites had capital costs of less than $10 million.37
!38% had capital costs of less than $3 million.38
!Site managers expected capital costs to exceed $20 million at 296 sites (232
non-federal sites and 64 federal facilities). The most common factors
contributing to these estimates were large volumes of contaminated media,
site complexities, and high treatment costs.39
33 Ibid., p. 39.
34EPA. OERR. Progress Toward Implementing Superfund: FY1994 Report to Congress.
EPA Publication #9200.2-24.
35 EPA. OSWER. Survey of NPL Site Managers. January 28, 1994.
EPA Enforcement and Costs to (PRPs)
!The Superfund program enforcement budget for FY1999 is $184 million, or
approximately 12.3% of the total Superfund appropriation of $1.5 billion.
!Responsible parties are paying for an increasing share of total cleanup costs.
In FY1987, the share of cleanup costs for responsible parties was 37%, and
the trust fund's share was 63%.40 However, by the end of FY1997, the share
of cleanup costs for responsible parties had increased to 70%.41
!In FY1997, responsible parties agreed to pay $451.5 million for future
response work and $158 million for past cost recoveries for a total of $609.5
million in cleanup costs. At the end of FY1997, the cumulative value of
cleanup activities that responsible parties have committed to since the
beginning of the Superfund program exceeded $14.7 billion.42
!In FY1997, EPA settled 197 new claims for cost recoveries from responsible
parties with a total value of $158 million and collected a total of $316 million
in past costs from responsible parties as a result of prior year settlements.
From the beginning of the Superfund program to the end of FY1997, EPA had
negotiated settlements with responsible parties for a cumulative value of $2.3
billion in costs to recover past cleanup expenses. Of this amount, EPA has
collected roughly $1.7 billion in cost recoveries from responsible parties.43
Transaction costs are a PRP's expenses for activities other than remediation.
Transaction costs include legal expenses to negotiate cleanup liability and settlement
with EPA, collect insurance claims for cleanup costs, and litigate with other parties
that may have contributed to a release. Transaction costs also may include other
expenses, such as laboratory testing for contamination in soil samples.
!In 1994, GAO conducted a survey of 1,000 major U.S. corporations. Of these
corporations, 367 had been a PRP at a Superfund site and had incurred legal
expenses during the cleanup process. Of these 367 corporations, 81 spent
$100,000 or less on cleanup costs, and 38 spent over $20 million. The
average total cleanup cost for an individual corporation was $1.5 million, of44
which each corporation spent an average of $500,000 on legal expenses.
40EPA. OSWER. Superfund Enforcement Program Highlights. 1993.
41EPA. OERR. Superfund Reforms FY1997 Annual Report. p 2.
42EPA. Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA). FY1997 Enforcement
and Compliance Assurance Accomplishments Report. July 1998. p. 2-6.
43Ib i d .
44 GAO. Superfund: Legal Expenses for Cleanup-Related Activities of Major U.S.
Corporations. GAO/RCED-95-46. December 1994. p. 4.
!Corporations with a major share of liability at 3 or more sites incurred an
average of $3.5 million in legal expenses for each site, 28% of their total
cleanup cost. De minimis parties (small volume waste contributors) incurred
an average of $32,000 in legal expenses for each site, 46% of their total
cleanup cost. While De minimis parties incurred the least amount of total
cleanup expenses, their legal expenses as a percentage of their total cleanup
costs were the highest.45 (Refer to Figure 6.)
!The surveyed corporations identified 3 factors that could contribute to
lowering legal expenses: 1) complete identification of all PRPs; 2) effective
enforcement of each PRP's liability; and 3) accurate volumetric data on each
PRP's contribution to a release.
!About 52% of the surveyed corporations stated that joining a PRP group
helped to lower legal expenses by encouraging cooperation among the parties
and avoiding litigation.46
Figure 6. Legal Expenses as a Share of Total Costs at Superfund
Corporations with Major LiabilityDe Minimis Parties(Small Volume Waste Contributors)
at Three or More Sites
Legal ExpensesLegal Expenses46%
Cleanup ActivitiesCleanup Activities54%
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the General Accounting Office.
45 Ibid., p. 5-6.
46 Ibid., p. 11-12.
!As of 1990, insurers and those who were insured spent approximately $500
million each year on Superfund litigation involving insurance coverage.47
!Insurance companies are experiencing substantial increases in their payments
for PRP Superfund claims. A GAO study of the nation's largest
property/casualty insurers found that, before 1987, 10 of 13 studied companies
made a total of approximately $11 million in payments to their policy holders.
From 1987 to 1991, however, the 13 companies paid approximately $144
million in claims.48
!According to a RAND study of four national insurance carriers involving over
13,000 claims, 88% of total expenditures by insurance companies to PRP
policyholders covered transaction costs such as corporate legal fees, and 12%
of payments were for corporate remedial activities. RAND calculated that if
its sample were representative of the whole insurance industry, insurers spent
$470 million on claims involving inactive hazardous waste sites in 1989.49
Operation and Maintenance Costs
After constructing remedies to clean up a site, additional activities may be
necessary to ensure that the remedy continues to function effectively to protect
human health and the environment. These activities commonly include maintaining
landfill covers, treating contaminated ground water, or restricting the use of land or
water adjacent to a site. Operation and maintenance (O&M) costs are the expenses
to perform these activities.
!States are responsible for assuring the effective operation and maintenance of
remedial constructions or other controls, and PRPs are financially responsible
for their share of O&M costs at a site. However, if the site remediation is
being paid for by the Superfund program (is "Fund-financed"), and the remedy
involves restoring ground or surface water to safe levels, EPA is responsible
for the cost of the first 10 years of the remedy, after which it becomes the
state's responsibility. The pertinent federal agency is responsible for O&M50
costs at federal facilities.
!As of May 1995, there were 275 Superfund sites where remedial constructions
were complete. Of these sites, 173 required long-term O&M, and the
47 House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs, 1990, as referenced in
Business Roundtable, 101 Terms & Facts on Superfund, November 1993.
48 GAO. Superfund Pollution Claims. 1992.
49Acton, Jan Paul, and Lloyd S. Dixon. Understanding Superfund. RAND Institute for
Social Justice. 1989.
50 40 CFR 300.435(f). "Operation and Maintenance."
remaining 102 used remedies that did not require it (for example, successfully
treating surface waste).51
!Restoring contaminated ground or surface water to safe levels represented the
largest portion of O&M costs, about 47%. Remedies that only include
containing surface waste represented the smallest portion, about 12%.
Maintaining both remedies accounted for 36%, and maintaining other
remedies accounted for the remaining 5% of O&M costs.52 (Refer to Figure
!EPA estimated that the average duration for O&M to completely clean up or
maintain a site would be 30 years, and GAO estimated that the average O&M
costs per site would be $12 million during this period. However, these costs
could be greater if the duration exceeds 30 years. A survey of EPA's regional
project managers indicated that about 20% of Superfund sites would require
O&M for more than 30 years. For example, sites where the remedy is
containing waste would require O&M indefinitely to maintain and periodically
repair the waste cover.53
!In FY1994, O&M costs at Superfund sites totaled $148 million, but these
costs likely will increase substantially in the future as remedial constructions
are completed over the next decade. GAO estimated that annual O&M costs
would approach $1 billion by FY2010.54
!GAO estimated that O&M costs for current and future sites would total almost
$32 billion through FY2040. Of this estimate, the federal government would
be responsible for approximately $5 billion, the states for $8 billion, and the
responsible parties for $18 billion. EPA estimated a higher amount of $37
billion for O&M costs through FY2040.55
51 GAO. Superfund: Operations and Maintenance Activities Will Require Billions of
Dollars. GAO/RCED 95-275. September 1995. p. 4.
52 Ibid., p. 9.
53 Ibid., p. 8.
54 Ibid., p. 6.
55 Ibid., p. 4-9.
Figure 7. Operation and Maintenance Activities at Superfund Sites
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the General Accounting Office.
Waste at Superfund Sites
The Record of Decision (ROD) is a formal document by which an EPA
administrator (usually the Regional Administrator) chooses the remedy for cleaning
up a specific type of contamination at a Superfund site. EPA's Superfund home page
on the internet at http://www.epa.gov/superfund provides information on RODs for
specific Superfund sites.
!As of 1992, soil contamination occurred at 80% of the Superfund sites with56
RODs yet to be implemented.
!In 1993, EPA estimated that ground water contamination occurred at nearly
!A variety of sources contribute waste to Superfund sites, which can lead to
soil or ground water contamination. A 1992 study indicated that
manufacturing operations contribute the largest share of the waste, while
56 EPA, Technology Innovation Office, 1992, as referenced in Business Roundtable, 101
Terms & Facts on Superfund. November 1993.
57 Kovalick, Walter, Jr. EPA. OSWER. Testimony before the U.S. House Committee on
Science, Space and Technology. April 1993.
mining activities contribute the smallest portion. Table 5 indicates the most
common sources of waste at Superfund sites and the percentage share of the
total waste for each source.
Table 5. Common Sources of Waste at Superfund Sites
Source of WasteShare of Waste
Department of Energy and Department of Defense5.0%
Source: EPA. OSWER. Superfund: Focusing on the Nation at Large. 1992. p. 8.
!A 1991 site characterization report indicated that liquid waste was present at
Table 6 lists the types of contaminants commonly found at Superfund sites.
Table 6. Types of Contaminants Commonly Found at Superfund Sites
ContaminantFrequency of Occurrence
PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls)20.3%
Source: EPA. OSWER. Physical State of Waste. Superfund: NPL Site Characterization
Project Report. 1991. p. 54.
58 EPA. OSWER. Superfund: NPL Site Characterization Project Report. 1991. p. 53.
!CERCLA requires the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to
establish a priority list of hazardous substances found most often at Superfund
sites. Table 7 indicates the types of chemicals most frequently encountered.
To obtain a fact sheet on each chemical, refer to EPA's Superfund home page
on the internet at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/oerr/atsdr/index.htm.
Table 7. Common Chemicals Found at Superfund Sites
Al drin/Dieldrin Mercury
CadmiumPolychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Carbon TetrachloridePolycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Chlordane T etrachloroethylene
Chromi um T r ichloroethyl ene
DDT, DDE, DDDXylene
Dichloroethene Zi nc
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with information provided by the
Environmental Protection Agency.
De Minimis Settlements
De minimis parties are PRPs that are responsible for a minor share of the total
cleanup costs at a site and that have contributed minimally to the volume or toxic
effects of hazardous waste at a site compared to other PRPs. CERCLA authorizes
EPA to enter into expedited settlements with de minimis parties and encourages EPA
to do so "as promptly as possible."59
CERCLA authorizes de minimis settlements in situations where a party is the
owner of the property where the facility is located but did not conduct or permit the
59 42 U.S.C. 9622(g). "De Minimis Settlements."
generation, handling or disposal of hazardous substances at the facility; did not
contribute to the release or threatened release from the facility; and did not acquire
the facility with knowledge that it had been used to store, handle or dispose of
De minimis settlements can reduce EPA's administrative and judicial
enforcement activities at a site by obtaining expedited cash payments for cleanup
costs without resorting to extensive litigation, and can benefit small volume
contributors by removing them from further liability and protecting them from
litigation by other PRPs.61
"De micromis" settlements are a subset of de minimis settlements and are
available to PRPs whose contribution to a hazardous release is a "minuscule"
amount, less than the "minimal" amount contributed by de minimis parties. "De
micromis" settlements are available to generators and transporters of waste but are
not available to owners or operators of sites. Like de minimis settlements, "de
micromis" settlements also remove PRPs from further liability and protect them from
litigation by other PRPs. Whereas de minimis settlements do require PRPs to pay a
small portion of the total cleanup costs at a site, de micromis settlements completely
remove PRPs from financial liability.62
!In 1993, EPA remedial project managers at 1,056 non-federal sites estimated
that there were one or more de minimis parties at 175 sites and no de minimis
parties at 609 sites. The number of de minimis parties was unknown at the
remaining 272 sites.63
!In 1996, GAO estimated that the total number of de minimis parties at these
!GAO also estimated that the number of PRPs contributing less than 1% to the
total amount of waste at these sites may exceed 30,000. The cutoff for
determining a de minimis party generally is 1%.65
!The current number of de minimis parties is likely higher than GAO's estimate
because data on sites added to the NPL since 1993 were not available. EPA
60 42 U.S.C. Sec. 9622(g)(1)(B).
61 EPA. Office of Site Remediation and Enforcement. Revised De Minimis Contributor
Consent Decree. EPA Memorandum. September 29, 1995.
62 EPA. Office of Site Remediation and Enforcement. Revised Guidance on CERCLA
Settlements with De Micromis Waste Contributors. EPA Memorandum. June 3, 1996.
63GAO. Superfund: Number of Potentially Responsible Parties at Superfund Sites Is
Difficult to Determine. GAO/RCED-96-75. March 1996. p. 4.
64Ibid. The data were reported in ranges for each site. GAO reached its estimate by using
the low and high ends of each range.
projected that as many as 700 sites may be placed on the NPL in the future and
that approximately 140 of these sites could have de minimis parties.66
!By the end of FY1997, EPA had awarded a total of 340 de minimis
settlements to more than 15,000 responsible parties. EPA awarded almost
one-third of these settlements (103) in FY1997 alone to more than 1,800
Orphan Share Settlements
Under CERCLA's joint and several liability standards, financially viable PRPs
are responsible for paying the cleanup costs of defunct or financially insolvent PRPs.68
The share of the costs for a non-viable PRP is referred to as an orphan share.
!In FY1996 and FY1997, EPA offered a total of $100 million in orphan share
compensation to facilitate site settlements with PRPs who agree to pay the69
cleanup costs of orphan shares for which they are liable under CERCLA.
!During FY1997 alone, EPA offered approximately $53 million in orphan
share compensation to viable PRPs at 20 sites across the United States. Offers70
ranged from $38,524 to $15 million with an average of $2.5 million per site.
!In 1993, EPA estimated that the annual cost to pay the entire orphan share for
remedial design and action at every site where PRPs perform the remedy71
would range between $150 and $420 million per fiscal year.
Natural Resource Damages
CERCLA makes PRPs liable for the costs of restoring natural resource damages
due to a hazardous substances release and for the costs of assessing these damages.72
Federal, state, and tribal authorities act as trustees on behalf of the public to assess
67EPA. OECA. FY1997 Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Accomplishments Report.
July 1998. p. 2-6.
68 EPA. OECA. Interim Guidance on Orphan Share Compensation for Settlors of Remedial
Design/Remedial Action and Non-Time-Critical Removals. June 3, 1996.
69EPA. OERR. Superfund Reforms FY1997 Annual Report. p. 41-42.
70Ib i d .
71 EPA. OSWER. Mixed Funding Evaluation Report: The Potential Costs of Orphan
Shares. September 1993.
72 42 U.S.C. 9607(a)(4)(C). "Liability."
damages at contaminated sites and prepare damage claims.73 In April 1996, GAO
reported that federal trustees settle almost half of all claims without requiring
separate payments for natural resource damages because the initial cleanup frequently
repairs the damage.74
!As of July 1996, federal trustees had completed settlements for natural
resource damage claims with responsible parties at 67 sites for a total of
$117.6 million. The total amount of the 5 largest settlements was $83.8
million, and settlements at the remaining 62 sites totaled $33.8 million.75
(Refer to Table 8).
!In March 1996, federal trustees filed the largest natural resource damage claim
to date for a total of $970 million against several mining companies for
releasing hazardous substances in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin in Idaho over
a hundred-year period and for injury to wildlife. Negotiations over the claim
are continuing. (United States v. ASARCO, Inc.)
!The state of Montana has filed the second largest natural resource damage
claim to date for a total of $765 million against Atlantic Richland Co. for
damages from mining activities in the Clark Fork River Basin. In June 1998,
the state reached a $215 million partial settlement. Of this amount, $15
million was for the state's damage assessment and litigation costs, $120
million was for restoration activities, and $80 million was for cleanup costs.
Negotiations over the remaining portion of the claim are continuing.
(Montana v. Atlantic Richfield Co.)
Table 8. Five Largest Natural Resource Damage Settlements at
Superfund Sites as of July 1996
Site Name and LocationSettlement
Cantara Loop Train Derailment, outside Dunsmuir, California$14.0 million
Commencement Bay, Tacoma, Washington$13.3 million
Elliot Bay, Seattle, Washington$24.3 million
Montrose, offshore, Los Angeles, California$12.0 million
New Bedford Harbor, Acushnet River, Massachusetts$20.2 million
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from the General Accounting
73 42 U.S.C. 9607(f). "Natural resources liability; designation of public trustees of natural
74 GAO. Outlook for and Experience with Natural Resource Damage Settlements.
GAO/RCED-96-71. April 1996. p. 4-5.
75 GAO. Superfund: Status of Selected Federal Natural Resource Damage Settlements.
GAO/RCED-97-10. November 1996. p. 1.
EPA's survey of NPL site managers in 1994 indicated that industrial use was the
most common activity on Superfund sites. However, residential use occurred most
frequently in the areas surrounding a site. Educational use ranked the lowest among
the major land uses. Table 9 lists the major types of land use that occurred on
Superfund sites and in the areas surrounding them as of 1994.
Table 9. On-Site and Surrounding Land Uses at Superfund Sites
Land UseUsesArea UsesUses
Residential 192 984 1176
Comme rcial 317 565 882
Industrial 384 367 751
Agricultural 69 433 502
Recreational 138 355 493
Abandoned 361 -- 361
Educational 55 116 171
"Other" includes closed landfills, military lands, undeveloped lands, wetlands, and other
Note: Of the 1,249 final and deleted Superfund sites at the time of the survey in 1994 (123
federal facilities and 1,126 non-federal sites), on-site land uses reflect data from 1,247 sites
reporting while surrounding land uses reflect data from 1,245 sites reporting. Totals for
land use exceed the number of Superfund sites because of multiple uses at certain sites.
Source: EPA. OSWER. Survey of NPL Site Managers. January 28, 1994.
Public Health Issues and the Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry76
CERCLA created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
(ATSDR), to investigate and reduce the harmful effects of exposure to hazardous
substances on human health. As amended in 1986, CERCLA requires the ATSDR
to conduct public health assessments of all Superfund sites proposed for the NPL and
other hazardous sites in response to public petitions. CERCLA also requires the
76Prepared by Stephen Redhead, Science, Technology, and Medicine Division. Information
in this section and additional details about ATSDR's public health assessment may be found
in the agency's most recent annual reports: Department of Health and Human Services,
Public Health Service, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, FY1996 Agency
Profile and Annual Report, and FY1997 Annual Report to Congress.
ATSDR to establish a priority list of hazardous substances found most often at
Superfund sites, produce toxicological profiles for each substance, initiate research
to fill gaps in our understanding of the toxicology of priority substances, conduct
epidemiologic studies and surveillance of exposure and health problems, establish
a national registry of persons exposed to hazardous substances, and provide training
and education for physicians. General information about ATSDR’s programs and
activities can be found on the agency's home page at
Public Health Assessments
!As of February 1997, the ATSDR had completed a total of 1,826 public health
assessments at 1,416 sites (1,776 assessments at NPL sites and 50 at non-NPL
sites). Each public health assessment includes an evaluation of a site's
environmental contamination, community health concerns, and relevant public
health data that local and state health authorities provide. The ATSDR
integrates these data, makes a professional judgment about the hazard posed
by a site, and recommends the actions necessary to protect public health.
!From 1992 to 1997, the ATSDR classified 3% of Superfund sites as an Urgent
Public Health Hazard; 39% as a Public Health Hazard; 1% as a Past Public
Health Hazard; 25% as an Indeterminate Public Health Hazard (due to an
absence of data); 27% as No Apparent Health Hazard (at the time the sites
were assessed); and 5% as No Public Health Hazard. (Refer to Figure 8.)
!In 1997, the ATSDR estimated that about 12.9 million people lived within one
mile of a Superfund NPL site. About 24% of that population are minorities.
Figure 8. Public Health Assessments at Superfund Sites: 1992-1997
Urgent PublicNo Public
Health HazardHealth Hazard
No Apparent Public
25%Indeterminate PublicHealth Hazard
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service with data from
the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
!Exposure studies focusing on lead show that soil is the most common pathway
of exposure for children living near hazardous waste sites. Other studies have
demonstrated increased exposure to hazardous compounds from consuming
contaminated vegetables, beef, milk, and fish raised and caught near
hazardous waste sites.
!The ATSDR has selected seven priority health conditions as the most
important for evaluating populations living near hazardous waste sites: birth
defects and reproductive disorders, cancer, immune function disorders, kidney
dysfunction, liver dysfunction, lung and respiratory diseases, and neurotoxic
disorders. The agency has conducted or provided funds for a variety of health
studies investigating these priority health conditions.
Overall Assessment of Public Health Impact
!Epidemiologic findings are still unfolding. However, the health data from
many Superfund sites indicate that proximity to hazardous waste sites seems
to be associated with a small to moderate increased risk of certain kinds of
birth defects, reduced birth weight and, though it is less well documented,
some specific cancers.
!Data from the ATSDR's National Exposure Registry for persons exposed to
benzene, dioxin, trichloroethane, or tricholoethylene indicate an elevated risk
of some chronic diseases. Stroke, liver disease, diabetes, anemia, kidney
disease, and urinary tract disorders were elevated in one or more of the
subregistries. These data are based on registrants' self-reported data and
compared with national baseline data.
!Physicians and other health care providers in communities around Superfund
sites have expressed a need for training and technical assistance in dealing
with health concerns potentially related to exposure to hazardous substances.
!The ATSDR has identified 30 hazardous substances found in 6% of sites
where documented human exposure has occurred. Of those 30 substances, 4
are known human carcinogens (i.e., arsenic, benzene, chromium, and vinyl
chloride) and 14 are reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic.
!The ATSDR has established a national database on the public health hazards
of sites that it has assessed. The database, called HazDat, is available on
ATSDR's home page. HazDat contains data on environmental contamination,
human exposure, toxicity of substances, and other information specific to
individual Superfund sites.
!The ATSDR has made available to the public 200 toxicological profiles of
prioritized hazardous substances. The agency has provided more than 100 fact
sheets on priority substances, which are also available on the ATSDR's home
!Although the ATSDR is a separate agency within the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, it receives its funding from the Superfund
!The FY1999 funding level for ATSDR is $76 million, an increase of
approximately $2 million above the amount of $74 million for FY1998 and
roughly $12 million more than the Administration's request of $64 million.
(ATSDR's appropriation is part of the appropriation for interagency response
actions. Refer to Figure 3 on page 6.)
State Superfund Programs
The state role at Superfund sites can range from sharing cleanup costs at
federally funded cleanups (as required by CERCLA) to actively managing a site. Of
the roughly 10,000 CERCLIS sites, almost 90% of them are not on the NPL. At
these non-NPL sites, the federal role may be limited to cleanup assessment or
emergency remedial activities, or the federal government may not be involved at all.
State superfund programs have the authority to assess and clean up non-NPL sites
listed in CERCLIS and to identify other potentially hazardous sites for cleanup in
their jurisdictions. By the end of 1997, all 50 states had enacted legislation to
authorize cleanup enforcement within their respective borders.77
Number of State Superfund Sites
!In 1997, a total of 37 states maintained an official priority list, registry, or
inventory of potentially hazardous sites within their jurisdictions. However,
the number of sites on these lists are not comparable and cannot be aggregated
because the states differ widely in the criteria used to list a site.78
!States also track potentially hazardous sites by classifying them as sites
needing attention, but states do not necessarily include these sites in their
official lists. The amount of sites needing attention more accurately reflects
the number of sites warranting cleanup than the state lists indicate. In 1997,
the states reported a total of 24,000 sites needing attention, and 6 states
reported having more than 1,000 sites in this classification. New Jersey
reported 4,915 sites, the highest number among the states.79
State Cleanup Funds
!Nearly all states have established funds for cleanup activities, but Nebraska
and the District of Columbia do not have a fund. At the end of FY1997, the
total balance of all state funds was $1.41 billion, and the average state fund80
balance was $30.1 million.
!In FY1997, the states spent a total of $565.1 million on cleanup activities at
both NPL and non-NPL sites combined. Of this amount, each state spent an
average of $12.8 million for cleanup activities. At non-NPL sites alone, the
states expended $136.5 million, with an average expenditure of $4.4 million.81
!States used a variety of revenue sources to fund cleanup activities. Table 10
lists the common sources of funding for state cleanup activities in FY1997.
Table 10. Common Sources of Funding for
State Cleanup Activities in FY1997
Source of FundingNumber of States
Waste Disposal Fees19
77 Environmental Law Institute (ELI). An Analysis of State Superfund Programs: 50-State
Study, 1998 Update. 1998. ELI Project #941724. p. 53. In addition to all 50 states, ELI
also treated the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as states in their study.
78 Ibid., p. 58.
79 Ibid., p. 58.
80 Ibid., p. 71.
81 Ibid., p. 76.
Penalties and Fines10
Source: Environmental Law Institute (ELI). An Analysis of State Superfund Programs: 50-
State Study, 1998 Update. 1998. ELI Project #941724. p. 81.
Status of State Cleanup Activities
!By the end of FY1997, the states had completed a total of 40,994 response
actions since state-funded cleanups began. During this time, Texas performed
a total of 18,994 response actions, more than any other state and 46% of total
actions taken. Iowa was the only state that did not perform any actions at
contaminated sites during this time period.82
!During FY1997 alone, the states completed a total of 5,552 response actions.
Of this amount, New Jersey completed a total of 2,591 response actions, the
most of any state and about 46% of the total actions taken.83
!At the end of FY1997, the states reported that a total of 13,713 response
actions were underway. Of this amount, New Jersey reported a total of 4,363
pending actions, the highest number of any state and 32% of total pending84
actions. Hawaii reported only 1 pending action, the least among the states.
State Cleanup Standards
!State superfund programs have the flexibility to select among the federal
standards or to develop their own standards for cleanup activities at non-NPL
sites within their jurisdictions. In 1997, all 50 states used drinking water
standards, 47 used surface water criteria, 47 used health-based risk
assessment, 39 used ground water criteria, 34 used soil criteria, and 41 also
82 Ibid., p. 61.
83 Ibid., p. 61.
84 Ibid., p. 61.
considered future land-use when selecting or developing standards for cleanup
State Liability Standards
!The majority of states have followed the federal model of strict, joint and
several, and retroactive liability in their own laws to identify which parties are
responsible for a hazardous release and to allocate the portion of a party's
liability. In 1997, 43 states enforced retroactive liability standards, and 41
states also enforced strict liability standards. To allocate the amount of a
hazardous release for which a party is responsible, 36 states enforced joint and
several liability standards. In addition, 5 states allowed responsible parties to
seek proportional allocation. The remaining states did not have standards for
85 Ibid., p. 90.
86 Ibid., p. 102.
Natural Resource Damages at State Sites
!By the end of 1997, 32 states had passed laws to authorize the recovery of
natural resource damages at non-NPL sites within their jurisdictions.87
!Under state laws, 10 states had recovered natural resource damages, and 11
states had pending natural resource damage claims.88
!States also may recover natural resource damages under federal authority in
CERCLA at non-NPL sites within their jurisdictions. Under federal authority,
17 states had recovered natural resource damages, and 15 states had pending
natural resource damage claims.89
!A total of 15 states reported that 52 natural resource restorations were
complete and that 96 restorations were underway.90
Selected Superfund Internet Resources
The following Internet resources provide a broad array of information on
hazardous waste cleanup under the Superfund program ranging from such topics as
cleanup status at specific sites to various perspectives on Superfund reform. CRS has
made every effort to provide a fair and reasonable selection of Internet sites, but is
not responsible for either the content or nature of those sites.
EPA and Other Federal Agencies
!EPA's Superfund home page provides comprehensive information on major
aspects of the program, status of recent initiatives, data on specific sites, and
links to EPA's regional offices: http://www.epa.gov/superfund
!Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry provides information on
public health assessments: http://atsdr1.atsdr.cdc.gov:8080
!National Institutes of Health's Superfund Basic Research Program provides
information on cleanup technologies: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/sbrp
!Department of Defense Environmental Cleanup Program provides data on
cleanup at military facilities: http://www.dtic.mil/envirodod
!Department of Energy Environmental Restoration Program provides data on
cleanup at defense nuclear facilities: http://www.em.doe.gov/er
!Department of the Interior provides information on natural resource damages:
87 Ibid., p. 108.
88 Ibid., p. 111.
89 Ibid., p. 114.
90 Ibid., p. 117.
!House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on
Water Resources and Environment:
!House Committee on Commerce, Subcommittee on Finance and Hazardous
!Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on
Superfund, Waste Control, and Risk Assessment:
State Government Organizations
!National Governors Association: http://www.nga.gov
!Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials:
!American Public Health Association: http://www.apha.org
!American Institute of Chemical Engineers: http://www.aiche.org
!Environmental Defense Fund: http://www.edf.org
!Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org
!Resources for the Future: http://www.rff.org
!Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org
!American Iron and Steel Institute: http://www.steel.org
!Building Owners and Managers Association: http://www.boma.org
!Chemical Manufacturers Association: http://www.cmahq.com
!Hazardous Waste Cleanup Project: http://envinfo.com/hwcplead.html
!National Association of Manufacturers: http://www.nam.org
!National Paint and Coatings Association: http://www.paint.org
!Small Business Survival Committee: http://www.sbsc.org
Public Policy and Research Organizations
!Cato Institute: http://www.cato.org
!Competitive Enterprise Institute: http://www.cei.org
!Hazardous Substance Research Center: http://maven.gtri.gatech.edu/hsrc.html
!Heritage Foundation: http://www.heritage.org
!Political Economy Research Center: http://www.perc.org
!Superfund Innovation Network:
!U.S. Public Interest Research Group: http://www.pirg.org
Community Interest and Information Groups
!Brownfields Nonprofit Network: http://www.brownfieldsnet.org
!Center for Public Integrity: http://www.publicintegrity.org
!Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation: http://www.cse.org
!Communities at Risk: http://www.ccaej.org
!People for the USA: http://www.pfw.org
!Toxics Action Center of New England: http://www.cqs.com/tac.htm
EPA Superfund Hotline
To speak with a regulatory specialist about cleanup requirements under
CERCLA or to order federal publications concerning hazardous waste cleanup,
contact EPA's Superfund Hotline at:
!703-412-9810 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, or
!1-800-424-9346 outside of Washington.
Glossary of Superfund Terms91
Administrative order on consent. A legal agreement between EPA and PRPs
whereby PRPs agree to perform or pay the cost of a site remediation. The
agreement describes actions to be taken at a site and may be subject to a public
comment period. Unlike a consent decree, an administrative order on consent
does not have to be approved by a judge.
Administrative record. A file that is maintained, and contains all information used,
by the lead agency to make its decision on the selection of a response action
under CERCLA. This file is to be available for public review with a copy
established at or near the site, usually at one of the information repositories. A
duplicate file is held in a central location, such as an EPA Regional Office.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). This organization
established under section 104(i) of CERCLA provides technical support and
assistance to protect human health and worker safety, determines the
toxicological and human health impacts associated with hazardous substances,
develops a priority-order list of hazardous substances most frequently found at
sites on the CERCLA National Priorities List, and produces toxicological
profiles of chemicals.
Air stripping. A treatment system that removes, or "strips," volatile organic
compounds from contaminated ground water or surface water by forcing an
airstream through the water and causing the compounds to evaporate.
Alternative remedial contract system (ARCS). A strategy in which responsibility
for remedial contract management is relegated to the EPA regions. An ARCS
contract is a form of cost-reimbursable contract called a "cost-plus-award-fee
contract," under which EPA reimburses the contractor for all allowable costs
ARAR. CERCLA section 121 requires cleanups to meet "ARARs": any "legally
applicable or relevant and appropriate standard, requirement, criteria or
limitation" that has been promulgated under federal or state environmental laws.
The ARARs include such things as the Clean Water Act's water quality criteria,
the Solid Waste Disposal Act's land disposal restrictions, and some states'
91 The definitions are taken from several sources, including:
Church, Thomas W. and Robert T. Nakamura. Cleaning Up the Mess: Implementation
Strategies in Superfund. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution .
Wagner, Travis P. The Complete Guide to the Hazardous Waste Regulations. New York:
Van Nostrand Reinhold .
Business Roundtable, 101 Terms & Facts on Superfund, November 1993.
ground water anti-degradation provisions that require cleanup to background
levels. EPA can waive the ARARs in some situations.
Bioremediation. A treatment method that utilizes micro-organisms to degrade
organic contaminants and convert them into non-hazardous constituents.
Brownfields. Abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities
where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived
Cap. An impermeable layer that seals the top of a hazardous waste site.
Carveout. A term used to designate an exemption from CERCLA law or
regulations. Generally pertains to liability for site remediations.
CERCLA. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability
Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-510).
CERCLIS or CERCLA information system. A database maintained by EPA and
the states that lists sites where releases may have occurred, need to be addressed
or have been addressed. CERCLIS consists of three inventories: CERCLIS
Removal Inventory, CERCLIS Remedial Inventory, and CERCLIS Enforcement
Coastal waters. For the purposes of classifying the size of discharges, means the
waters of the coastal zone except for the Great Lakes and specified ports and
harbors on inland rivers (40 CFR 300.5).
Comment period. A time period provided for the public to review and comment on
proposed EPA actions or rulemakings following publication in the Federal
Community relations plan. Formal plan for EPA community relations activities at
Superfund sites. It is designed to ensure citizens opportunities for public
involvement at the sites, and to allow them the opportunity to learn more about
Consent decree. A legal document approved and issued by a judge that formalizes
an agreement reached between EPA and PRPs where PRPs will perform all or
part of a Superfund site remediation, and identifies other enforcement action to
be taken by the Agency. The consent decree describes actions that PRPs are
required to perform and is subject to a public comment period.
Construction completion. Construction completion at sites refers to the point in the
cleanup process at which physical construction is complete for all remedial and
removal work required at the entire site. Construction is officially complete
when a document has been signed by EPA stating that all necessary remediation
has been finished. While no further construction is anticipated at the site, there
may still be a need for long-term, on-site activity before specified clean-up
levels are met (e.g., restoration of ground water and surface water). Although
physical construction may not be necessary at some sites, these sites are also
included in this category to fully portray EPA's progress.
Containment. A remediation method that seals off all possible exposure pathways
between a hazardous disposal site and the environment, which generally
includes capping and institutional controls.
Contribution. A legal doctrine that enables parties sued under joint and several
liability to obtain compensation from other parties who may have been legally
liable, but who were not proceeded against in the original court action.
Cost-effective alternative. An alternative control or corrective method identified
as the best available in terms of reliability, permanence, and economic
Cost recovery. A legal proceeding, authorized under CERCLA, that allows the
government to proceed against PRPs for recovery of both administrative and
actual cleanup costs expended in either emergency removal or remedial
activities at hazardous waste sites.
Covenant not-to-sue. CERCLA authorizes EPA to release responsible parties from
liability to the United States under CERCLA, including future liability resulting
from releases or threatened releases addressed by a remedial action.
Delisting. The process by which a Superfund site is removed from the National
Priorities List (NPL) after it has been completely cleaned up.
Dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs). Generally organic compounds (or
mixtures of such compounds) that are immiscible (do not mix) with water.
Environment. As defined by CERCLA §101(8): "(A) the navigable waters, the
waters of the contiguous zone, and the ocean waters of which the natural
resources are under the exclusive management authority of the United States
under the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, and (B) any other
surface water, ground water, drinking water supply, land surface or subsurface
strata, or ambient air within the United States or under the jurisdiction of the
Environmental income tax (EIT). A tax on corporations imposed on their
modified alternative minimum taxable income over $2 million, the proceeds of
which go to the Hazardous Substance Superfund Trust Fund. The tax is 0.12%
($12 per $10,000 of income in excess of $2 million). It is the Fund's largest
single source of revenue, and raised $612 million in FY1995.
Environmental response team (ERT). EPA hazardous waste experts who provide
24-hour technical assistance to EPA Regional Offices and states during all types
of emergencies involving releases at hazardous disposal sites and spills of
Facility. As defined by CERCLA §101(9): "(A) any building, structure, installation,
equipment, pipe or pipeline (including any pipe into a sewer or publicly owned
treatment works), well, pit, pond, lagoon, impoundment, ditch, landfill, storage
container, motor vehicle, rolling stock, or aircraft, or (B) any site or area where
a hazardous substance has been deposited, stored, disposed of, or placed, or
otherwise come to be located; but does not include any consumer product in
consumer use or any vessel."
Feedstock tax. An excise tax that is levied on 42 chemical raw materials, the
proceeds of which go to the Hazardous Substance Superfund Trust Fund. The
taxes range from $0.24 to $4.87 per ton. In FY1995 it supplied $291 million.
Ground water. As defined by CERCLA §101(12): "water in a saturated zone or
stratum beneath the surface of land or water."
Guarantor. As defined by CERCLA §101(13): "any person, other than the owner
or operator, who provides evidence of financial responsibility for an owner or
operator under this Act."
Hazard Ranking System (HRS). A scoring system used to evaluate potential
relative risks to public health and the environment from releases or threatened
releases of hazardous substances. EPA and states use the HRS to calculate a
site score (0-100) based on the actual or potential release of hazardous
substances from a site through air, surface water or ground water. A score of
Hazardous substance. As defined by CERCLA §101(14), any substance designated
or listed under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, CERCLA, the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substances
Control Act. The term excludes petroleum, or any fraction thereof, unless it is
specifically listed under one of the mentioned laws; it also excludes natural gas,
natural gas liquids, liquefied natural gas, and synthetic gas usable for fuel (or
mixtures of natural gas and such synthetic gas).
Hazardous wastes. Those wastes that are regulated under the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (40 CFR Part 261) either because they are
"listed" or because they are ignitable, corrosive, chemically reactive, or toxic.
As such, they are hazardous substances under CERCLA.
Information repository. A file containing current information, technical reports,
reference documents, and technical assistance grants application information on
a Superfund site. The information repository is usually located in a public
building (often a library) that is convenient for local residents.
Institutional controls. Measures, such as access restrictions and deed restrictions,
that separate people from the source of contamination. More than one
institutional control may be used at a site.
Joint and several liability. A legal standard, where any involved party can have the
legal responsibility for cleaning up the entire site, regardless of its degree of
involvement, unless there is a reasonable basis for apportioning liability.
Leachate. A contaminated liquid resulting when water percolates, or trickles,
through waste materials and collects components of those wastes.
Lead agency. The federal agency (or state agency operating pursuant to a contract
or cooperative agreement) that has primary responsibility for coordinating
response actions under the National Contingency Plan. A federal lead agency
provides the On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) or Remedial Project Manager
(RPM). A state lead agency carries out the same responsibilities delineated for
OSCs/RPMs except coordinating and directing federal agency response actions
(40 CFR 300.5).
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the
maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water delivered to any user of
a public water system.
Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG). Under the Safe Drinking Water
Act, the maximum level of a contaminant in drinking water at which no known
or anticipated adverse effect on human health would occur, and which includes
an adequate margin of safety.
Mixed funding. The practice by which the government can assume some proportion
of cleanup expenses, with other parties assuming the rest.
Monitoring wells. Special wells drilled at specific locations where ground water can
be sampled at selected depths and studied to determine the direction of ground
water flow and the types and amounts of contaminants present.
National Contingency Plan, or National Oil and Hazardous Substances
Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP). The basic policy directive for federal
response actions under CERCLA. It sets out the organizational structure and
procedures for responding to releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, and
contaminants, and contains the Hazard Ranking System and the National
Priorities List as appendices.
National Response Center (NRC). The federal operations center that receives
notification of all releases of oil and hazardous substances into the environment.
National Response Team (NRT). Representatives of 13 federal agencies who as a
team coordinate federal responses to nationally significant incidents of pollution
and provide advice and technical assistance to the responding agency(ies) before
and during a response action.
Natural resources. As defined by CERCLA §101(16): "land, fish, wildlife, biota,
air, water, ground water, drinking water supplies, and other such resources
belonging to, managed by, held in trust by, appertaining to, or otherwise
controlled by the United States ..., any state or local government, any foreign
government, any Indian tribe, or, if such resources are subject to a trust
restriction on alienation, any member of an Indian tribe."
NBAR. Nonbinding allocation of responsibility. A device, established in SARA,
that allows EPA to make a nonbinding estimate of the proportional share that
each of the various responsible parties at a Superfund site should pay toward the
costs of cleanup.
Notice letter. EPA's formal notice by letter to PRPs, also called a Section 104(e)
letter, that CERCLA-related action is to be undertaken at a site with those PRPs
being considered responsible.
NPL. National Priorities List. The list of (currently, approximately 1,200)
hazardous waste sites that have been determined (by a hazard ranking score) to
pose a serious threat to human health and/or the environment.
Offshore facility. As defined by CERCLA §101(17): "any facility of any kind
located in, on, or under any of the navigable waters of the United States, and any
facility of any kind which is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and
is located in, on, or under any other waters, other than a vessel or a public
On-scene coordinator (OSC). The federal official predesignated by EPA or the
U.S. Coast Guard to coordinate and direct federal responses under the National
Contingency Plan; or the DOD official designated to coordinate and direct the
removal actions from releases of hazardous substances from DOD vessels and
facilities (40 CFR 300.5).
Onshore facility. As defined by CERCLA §101(18): "any facility (including, but
not limited to, motor vehicles and rolling stock) of any kind located in, on, or
under, any land or nonnavigable waters within the United States."
Operable unit. A discrete part of the entire response action that decreases a release,
threat of release, or pathway of exposure (40 CFR 300.5).
ORC. Office of Regional Counsel. EPA's legal office in the regions. Typically, an
ORC attorney is assigned to each Superfund case.
Orphan share. A share of waste at a site that cannot be collected because the PRP
is either unidentifiable or insolvent.
Petroleum exclusion clause. Language in CERCLA §101(14) that excludes
petroleum from the definition of "hazardous substance."
PRP. Potentially responsible party. Any individual or company that may have
contributed to contamination at a Superfund site. Examples of PRPs include
waste generators, waste transporters, current or former landowners, and site
operators. One who may be liable for site cleanup costs under CERCLA.
Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PA/SI). The PA is the process of
collecting and reviewing available information about a known or suspected
hazardous disposal site or release to determine if the site requires further study.
If so, the more extensive site inspection is undertaken to gather technical
information and laboratory samples. The information is used to score the site
using the hazard ranking system to determine whether the site will be placed on
the National Priorities List.
Pump-and-treat. A treatment process that involves removal of contaminated
ground water through pumping or other processes, followed by treatment of the
water and either re-injection of the water into the ground or discharge of the
water to a stream or lake.
RCRA. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-580). The
principal federal law that regulates the definition, transportation, and disposal
of hazardous wastes (as well as solid wastes in general). A key difference from
Superfund is that it addresses current and future waste disposal practices, while
Superfund was established to clean up inactive hazardous waste sites.
RD/RA. Remedial design/remedial action. The final stage of a site cleanup, when
the remedy is conceived and put into effect.
Regional response team. Representatives of federal, state, and local agencies who
may assist in coordination of activities at the request of the On-Scene
Coordinator or Remedial Project Manager before and during response actions.
Release. As defined by CERCLA §101(22): "any spilling, leaking, pumping,
pouring, emitting, emptying, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching,
dumping, or disposing into the environment (including the abandonment or
discarding of barrels, containers, and other closed receptacles containing any
hazardous substance or pollutant or contaminant)...." It excludes certain
workplace releases, engine exhausts, and releases of nuclear materials covered
by other law.
Relevant and appropriate requirements. Those federal or state cleanup
requirements that, while not "applicable," address problems sufficiently similar
to those encountered at the CERCLA site that their use is appropriate.
Requirements may be relevant and appropriate if they would be "applicable"
except for jurisdictional restrictions associated with the requirement (40 CFR
Remedial action, remedy. The actual construction or implementation phase that
follows the remedial design of the selected remediation alternative at a site on
the National Priorities List.
Remedial action plan. A plan that details the technical approach for implementing
the remedial response. It includes the methods to be followed during the entire
remediation process -- from developing the remedial design to implementing the
selected remedy through construction.
Remedial design. An engineering phase that follows the record of decision when
technical drawings and specifications are developed for the subsequent remedial
action at a site on the National Priorities List.
Remedial project manager (RPM). The federal official designated by EPA (or the
U.S. Coast Guard for vessels) to coordinate, monitor, and direct response
activities under the National Contingency Plan; or the federal official the
Department of Defense (DOD) designates to coordinate and direct federal
response actions resulting from releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or
contaminants from DOD facilities or vessels (40 CFR 300.5).
Remedial response. A long-term action that stops or substantially reduces a release
of a hazardous substance that could affect public health or the environment.
The term remediation, or cleanup, is sometimes used interchangeably with the
terms remedial action, removal action, response action, remedy, or corrective
Remediation. Activities to clean up a contaminated site.
Removal, or emergency removal. An action taken by EPA under the emergency
removal provisions of CERCLA, that enables the agency to take preliminary
steps to clean up a site or reduce its danger when there is an imminent and
substantial threat to public health or the environment. A removal cannot exceed
$2 million or one year for any one action at any one site.
Reopener. A clause, usually included in Superfund consent decrees at government
insistence, which allows the government to reopen a case and proceed legally
against a responsible party who has already settled with the government, if
certain contingencies occur, such as discovery of additional unexpected waste,
or failure of a remedy.
Reportable quantity (RQ). The minimum quantity of a hazardous substance which,
if released, is required to be reported.
Respond or response. As defined by CERCLA §101(25), "means remove, removal,
remedy, and remedial action; all such terms (including the terms `removal' and
`remedial action') include enforcement activities related thereto."
Retroactive liability. Parties can be held liable for releases resulting from actions
prior to when Congress enacted CERCLA in 1980.
RI/FS. Remedial investigation/feasibility study. The remedial investigation is an
engineering study that assesses the geographical, geological, and hydrological
properties of a site, and the nature and extent of the hazardous waste contained
therein. It is usually combined with the feasibility study, which identifies the
various cleanup alternatives and specifies their costs and benefits.
Risk assessment. A qualitative and quantitative evaluation performed to define the
risk posed to human health and/or the environment by the presence or potential
presence and/or use of specific pollutants.
ROD. Record of Decision. The formal document by which an EPA administrator
(usually the regional administrator) chooses the remedy to be applied at a
RPM. Remedial project manager. The EPA official who has charge of the
remediation at a particular Superfund site.
SACM (Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model). A model developed by EPA to
accelerate remediations so that most contamination is removed early in the
SARA. Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-499).
Section 106 order. A unilateral administrative order that allows EPA to order PRPs
to perform certain remedial actions at a Superfund site, subject to treble
damages and daily fines if the order is not obeyed.
Selected alternative. The remediation alternative selected for a site based on
technical feasibility, permanence, reliability, and cost. The selected alternative
need not be the least expensive alternative. If there are several remediation
alternatives available that deal effectively with the problems at the site, EPA
must choose the remedy on the basis of permanence, reliability, and cost.
Settlement. A legal agreement reached between EPA and parties at a Superfund site.
The settlement outlines the payments of each party, the time frame of
remediation and the remedy selected.
SITE (Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation). This program supports
development of technologies for assessing and treating waste at Superfund sites.
EPA evaluates the technology and provides an assessment of its potential for
future use in Superfund remediation actions. The program consists of four
related components: the Demonstration Program, the Emerging Technologies
Program, the Monitoring and Measurement Technologies Program, and
Technology Transfer activities.
Source control action. The construction or installation and start-up of those actions
necessary to prevent the continued release of hazardous substances (primarily
from a source on top of or within the ground, or in buildings or other structures)
into the environment (40 CFR 300.5).
Source control maintenance measures. Those measures intended to maintain the
effectiveness of source control actions once such actions are operating and
functioning properly, such as the maintenance of landfill caps and leachate
collection systems (40 CFR 300.5).
Strict Liability. The government needs to prove only involvement at a waste site,
not negligence. Under CERCLA, proof of strict causation is not necessary.
Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program. A grant program that provides funds
for qualified citizens' groups to hire independent technical advisors to help
understand and comment on technical decisions relating to Superfund
Third-party suits. In the context of Superfund, third-party suits are those brought
by PRPs at a site who are sued by the government, and against other PRPs who
were not sued, in order to obtain compensation for their costs and expenses.
United States and State. As defined by CERCLA §101(27): "the several states of
the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,
Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the
Northern Marianas, and any other territory or possession over which the United
States has jurisdiction."
Viable PRP. A PRP that is financially solvent and that can be expected to pay its
share of the total cleanup costs at a site.