What Is Superfund? Why Should You Care?

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Superfund is a reference to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The law was created in eighties in response to an environmental disaster discovered in a working class Niagara Falls neighborhood called Love Canal. 21,000 tons of toxic waste was buried beneath the neighborhood that consisted of homes and school.

After the Love Canal incident, CERCLA was enacted by Congress to help protect people from exposure to toxic waste sites. Superfund grants authority to the federal government to clean up toxic substances that pose a risk to people’s health or to the environment. Typically, when there is a clean up of toxic substances, this is paid for by the party responsible for its existence. If the party cannot be found, or if the party cannot be paid for, then it is a cost incurred by the government. The clean up involves a site assessment, placement of the site on the National Priorities List (NPL), and creating a clean-up plan. A Record of Decision (ROD) will be created and made available for public viewing. Through this record, you can view information including the site history, the types of toxins found, and the type of clean-up process that will occur. An online database is available to search for and view RODs by state, keyword, or year.

A handful of states have enacted their own laws that prevent schools from being built on or near toxic waste sites. These states include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Utah. However, aside from these states, many toxic sites go unregulated. It has been reported that there are over 1300 sites on the NPL that are to be cleaned and over 11 million people who live within 1 mile of a toxic site. Sites commonly found to be Superfund sites include abandoned warehouses, manufacturing facilities, processing plants and landfills. Living near these sites could present serious health risks for you and your family. People who lived or went to school in Love Canal reported reactions including nausea, seizures, and even cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the Superfund program. The EPA works along with individual states. For example, in New Jersey, The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has its own Site Remediation Program where citizens can check for sites in their area. In addition to state run sites, the also EPA provides online resources to check for Superfund sites. For more information regarding federal and state Superfund sites and other environmental information, visit The Free Public Records Directory.

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