5 Facts About the Superfund Program

In the wake of recent changes in environmental policy in the United States, many eyes are now looking at the Superfund program. Superfund is a program designed to encourage and support cleanup efforts with regard to dangerous hazardous material spills. It is directed by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and its efforts are focused on contamination which poses an immediate risk to human or environmental health.

Here are 5 facts about the Superfund program of which you may not be aware:

Nevada is the least contaminated state in the US.

Only a single location in Nevada has been listed on the Superfund program’s National Priority List, which provides a list of the most critically endangered locations in need of immediate attention. Nevada’s location on the list has been thoroughly evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency and other concerned parties at the state and federal level. Solutions have been designed, and are currently being implemented.

The program has existed since 1980.

Almost forty years ago, the United States Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA. The program was created as a part of this act, to encourage action and responsibility with regard to particularly dangerous spills of pollutants, toxic waste, and other environmental hazards. It involves cleanup efforts, research into the precise nature of any effects resulting from a spill, and the cooperation of multiple agencies in ensuring a fast and efficient response to any dangerous situation.

Almost 400 sites have been cleaned up to date, thanks to Superfund.

The program, to date, has listed hundreds of locations in need of attention. Thanks to the high-profile visibility it assigns to the most critical sites, many of these locations have been cleaned up, and have been evaluated as no longer posing enough of a threat to merit inclusion on the program’s list. By 2014, 375 sites had been removed from the official list of dangerously contaminated locations, an effort which necessitates ongoing research, ensuring that no dangerous long-term effects remain in play.

Superfund works directly with potentially responsible parties.

The program even has an acronym for such partners in its cleanup efforts: “PPR.” While some have targeted CERCLA and its associated programs as being unfairly punitive with regard to holding commercial or other agencies responsible for spills of hazardous waste, these efforts provide a direct opportunity to mitigate any damage caused by an organization’s neglect or malpractice. Through assisting in mitigation efforts, a PPR may reduce the subsequent legal and financial consequences of the incident. Potentially responsible parties may assist at every stage, including cleanup, as well as research into the long-term effects of a spill.

New Jersey is the most contaminated state in the US.

New Jersey has 116 locations on the Superfund program’s master list of contaminated sites. It is the only state to pass 100 locations, although California, Pennsylvania and New York are a close second, third and fourth, respectively (with 98, 95 and 93 locations apiece). At least 50 of New Jersey’s sites on the National Priority List either threaten, or have already contaminated, human drinking water supplies.

The Superfund program is a powerful and effective initiative, which is directly responsible for the cleanup of hundreds of hazardous waste sites, which previously posed a demonstrable threat to public health and safety. The program makes this possible by listing sites in a readily accessible National Priorities List, whereupon individual locations may be addressed through networking between involved agencies, information sharing provisions, and funding for the development and implementation of cleanup procedures.