WHAT IS SUPERFUND?
The EPA is responsible for managing and overseeing the cleanup and remediation of the nation’s most hazardous waste sites, known as Superfund sites. These sites are designated as the highest priority cleanup sites due to the contamination which are causing or may potentially cause adverse effects on human health and the environment.
The Federal Superfund legislation, also known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), was passed by Congress in 1980 in response to the growing number of hazardous sites discovered around the US. The most famous Superfund site is the infamous Love Canal, a former landfill in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where the Hooker Chemical Corporation dumped hundreds of gallons of waste into an unlined canal for a number of years beginning in the 1920’s. The Love Canal disaster is seen as one of the worst public health emergencies as a result of the contamination left behind.
When the Superfund law was passed in 1980, funds were allocated from a tax program targeting chemical and petroleum industries, but the fund quickly dried up as hundreds of sites continued to be discovered, and cleanup costs were exorbitant. A series of environmental legislative bills were passed to improve the Superfund program, but funding remains one of the biggest challenges today in assuring that the sites are cleaned up to protective standards. In general, Superfund operates on “the polluter pays principal,” meaning that the parties responsible for contributing to the waste are expected to be found and held financially responsible for funding the cleanups. In cases where the responsible parties cannot be found or are unwilling to cooperate, Federal monies are applied to remediation costs, but to a modest degree.
Many Superfund sites, due to the complexity and nature of the contamination, have remained in active remediation for decades. This is the case with the Montrose and Del Amo sites, and the EPA, state regulatory agencies, and the DAAC are working hard towards solutions to this messy (to put it lightly) problem.
For more information, visit the Del Amo and Montrose sections of this website to learn about the cleanups in more detail.