Superfund is the federal government's program for cleaning up the most complex, uncontrolled, or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the United States. The Superfund program and trust fund were established by CERCLA in 1980 in response to the discovery of toxic waste dumps, such as Love Canal and Times Beach, in the 1970s. Superfund authorizes EPA to clean up such sites, and to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups, or reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups. Since its inception in 1980, the Superfund program has made considerable progress toward cleaning up contaminated sites and responding to emergencies involving hazardous substances.
This FOCUS presents current information on several aspects of the Superfund program. The topics discussed are:
I. Background on the Superfund program (page 4.1),
II. EPA requests reinstatement of the Superfund tax (page 4.2),
III. GAO reports on Superfund funding issues (page 4.2),
IV. Superfund Green Remediation Strategy (page 4.4),
V. Treatment Technologies for Superfund site cleanup (page 4.10),
VI. Special accounts guidance (page 4.16), and
VII. Superfund frequently asked questions and answers (page 4.23).
I. Background on the Superfund Program
Since its inception in 1980, the Superfund program has made considerable progress toward cleaning up contaminated sites and responding to emergencies involving hazardous substances.
The Superfund cleanup process is complex. The long-term cleanup process involves assessing sites, placing them on the National Priorities List (NPL), and establishing and implementing appropriate cleanup plans. In addition, EPA has the authority to:
* Conduct removal actions where immediate action needs to be taken,
* Enforce against potentially responsible parties (PRPs),
* Ensure community involvement,
* Involve states, and
* Ensure long-term protectiveness.
Since 1980, EPA has located and analyzed tens of thousands of hazardous waste sites, protected people and the environment from contamination at the worst sites, and involved others in cleanup. The blueprint for EPA's Superfund activities is provided in the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP). The NCP is a regulation applicable to all federal agencies that are involved in responding to hazardous substance releases.
The Superfund program is overseen by EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) in Washington, D.C. OSWER's Office of Emergency Management is responsible for short-term responses conducted under Superfund's authority. The Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, and the Federal Facilities Response and Reuse Office, also within OSWER, have the lead for managing the long-term Superfund response program for nonfederal sites and federal facilities, respectively. OSWER also manages the federal brownfields program. Much of the responsibility for implementing the Superfund program lies with EPA's 10 regional offices. These offices are the front line in responding to releases of hazardous substances and other emergencies.
Table 1 shows the number of federal and general NPL sites for each status and milestone, as of November 8, 2010.
II. EPA Requests Reinstatement of Superfund Tax
From 1980 to 1995, the Superfund program was funded largely by taxes on petroleum, chemical, and other companies, which were commonly referred to as the "Superfund taxes" or "polluter pays taxes." However, the...