Superfund is a federal program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in cooperation with state governments to identify and cleanup the worst hazardous waste sites in the United States. Before Superfund, companies were less aware of the consequences of hazardous chemicals on the environment and often disposed of waste materials in open piles, buried underground, or deposited in streams. Sites where disposal practices were continuous, occurring over many years and contaminating vast areas of soil and groundwater, often became the Superfund Sites of today requiring extensive cleanup resources.
Citizen concern prompted Congress to establish the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) in1980 to eliminate the health and environmental threats posed by hazardous waste sites. This law is known as Superfund because CERCLA established a national revolving trust fund to pay for cleanup at sites whose owners were no longer available or financially solvent. The Superfund is used when companies or people responsible for the contamination at Superfund sites cannot be found or cannot perform or pay for the cleanup work.
National Priorities List
Before a cleanup of a hazardous waste site can take place under Superfund, it must be included on the National Priority List (NPL). The National Priorities List (NPL) is a published list of hazardous waste sites that are eligible for extensive, long-term cleanup action under the Superfund program. When no responsible party can be found, listing on the NPL allows EPA and the State to access the Superfund Trust fund to pay for site cleanup. The NPL is also used as an information and program management tool in EPA’s policy to address the worst waste sites first.
DEQ’s Involvement in the Superfund Program
In Utah, the Superfund program is administered by the U.S. EPA Region 8 in Denver, in cooperation with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ), Division of Environmental Response and Remediation. All Superfund sites are a joint effort between the EPA and UDEQ. Depending on the site, either the UDEQ takes the lead responsibility with the EPA assistance or EPA takes the lead with DEQ assistance.
The UDEQ currently oversees 22 Superfund sites for cleanup and has investigated nearly 370 waste site areas. Most of the Superfund contamination in Utah is the result of years of mining-related activities, industrial manufacturing, landfills, and military facilities where hazardous wastes were produced, used, stored, or disposed.