which authorized the establishment of the Superfund program. The goal of the program is to reduce current and future risks to human health and the environment at sites contaminated with hazardous substances. CERCLA established a wide-ranging liability system that makes those responsible for the contamination at sites liable for cleanup costs (see Probst et al. 1995 for greater detail). It also created the “Superfund,” a trust fund stocked primarily by a dedicated tax on oil and chemical companies, to fund cleanup activities where there was no financially viable responsible party. Since the taxing authority expired in 1995, the trust fund is largely depleted, and Congress now funds the program from general revenues through annual appropriations (Fletcher et al. 2006).1 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implements the program through the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (40 CFR § 300), commonly referred to as the NCP or the national contingency plan.

Most of the Superfund program’s efforts are aimed at cleaning up sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). Typically, a site is proposed for inclusion on the NPL after being evaluated with a hazard-ranking system, which assesses the potential for hazardous-substance releases at a site to harm human health or the environment (40 CFR § 300 Appendix A). The Superfund process progresses from an initial site assessment through cleanup and eventually deletion of the site from the NPL. Site activities can be paid for by EPA (known as “fund-led” cleanups),2 by parties connected to the site (referred to as responsible parties), or by some combination of the two.

Selection of a remedy begins with a remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS). The RI is intended to determine the nature and extent of contamination and estimate the associated risk to people and the environment. The FS analyzes and compares remedial alternatives according to the nine NCP criteria (Box 2-1). The criteria require that the remedy, above all, be protective of human health and the environment and comply with all applicable or relevant and appropriate requirements


It is worth noting that, in the last few years, EPA has been in the position of not having enough funds to fund all the new remedies that are ready to be started at NPL sites (EPA 2004a).


For fund-lead cleanups, states are required to pay 10% of the costs.

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