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Superfund Sites

A Superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment. EPA's Superfund program either funds the cleanup of the site, works with the state to clean up the site, or oversees cleanup by those responsible for the contamination.

Superfund sites can include properties on the National Priorities List as well as emergency response sites that are potentially contaminated from the unexpected release of hazardous substances or oil. Some Superfund sites are old waste disposal facilities, while others are comprised of various types of industrial production facilities where unauthorized dumping and inadvertent spills occurred.

Superfund Program Background

Years ago, people were less aware of how dumping chemical wastes might affect public health and the environment. On thousands of properties where such practices were intensive or continuous, the result was uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites, such as abandoned warehouses and landfills. Citizen concern over the extent of this problem led Congress to establish the Superfund Program in 1980 to locate, investigate, and clean up the worst sites nationwide.

The Superfund Program was created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). The acts established authority for the government to respond to the release/threat of release of hazardous wastes, including cleanup and enforcement actions.

Since 1980, the Superfund program has been cleaning up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites across the nation. Long term cleanups at National Priorities List (NPL) sites last more than a year, while short term /emergency cleanups are usually completed in less than a year. More Superfund Information.

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Redevelopment of Superfund Sites

While EPA's primary mission is to protect human health and the environment, Superfund cleanups have also been instrumental in returning contaminated sites to productive use. Region 4 has a Superfund Redevelopment Program whose goal is to help local communities and other interested stakeholders (developers, state and local governments) return some of the nation's worst hazardous waste sites to safe and productive uses.

While cleaning up these Superfund sites and making them protective of human health and the environment, EPA and Region 4 are working with communities and other partners to consider future use opportunities and integrate appropriate reuse options into the cleanup process. This is helping local communities realize that the productive reuse of their formerly contaminated properties can have significant positive economic, environmental, and social impacts. The Superfund Redevelopment Initiative has developed frequently asked questions (FAQs) that may provide useful information about redeveloping Superfund sites.

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Legal Issues at Superfund Sites

Legal issues are important when buying or reusing Superfund sites. The Brownfield Amendments to the Superfund law provide important protections from Superfund liability to landowners who meet certain statutory criteria. Landowners who qualify as bona fide prospective purchasers, contiguous property owners, or innocent landowners are not liable under Superfund. Whether you are interested in purchasing, leasing, or selling a Superfund site, there are important factors to consider. It is always important to make sure that your use of the site does not interfere with the ongoing cleanup or engineered controls at the site, and that you do not cause a release of hazardous substances into the environment; otherwise you could become responsible for those actions.

Superfund imposes liability on parties responsible for, in whole or in part, the presence of hazardous substances at a site. A number of environmental laws govern the cleanup and reuse of Superfund sites:

Additional information on Superfund liability is available on EPA's Cleanup Enforcement web page.

Superfund Tools & Resources

EPA and Region 4 have developed many tools and resources that can help implement redevelopment activities at contaminated sites and properties. The links below provide Superfund-specific tools, resources, and information from a number of sources.

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Superfund Redevelopment Partnerships

EPA has formed partnerships with states, tribes, other federal agencies, local governments, communities, landowners, lenders, developers, and parties potentially responsible for contamination to help make Superfund sites ready for reuse. More information on Superfund Redevelopment Partnerships.

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Superfund Program Activities and Initiatives

Through its Return to Use (RTU) Initiative, EPA’s Superfund Redevelopment program works with stakeholders at Superfund sites across the country that have been cleaned up yet remain vacant due to real or perceived barriers to their reuse. The Superfund Redevelopment Initiative web site provides more information about the Return to Use Initiative, including a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that offers general information about redeveloping Superfund sites.

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Superfund Sites in Region 4

Region 4 maintains a catalogue of Superfund sites where pollution is being or has been cleaned up throughout the Region. Sites are organized by state, and allow you to find site summaries, site profiles, contacts, and fact sheets.

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Superfund Program Contacts

An appropriate Region 4 contact for reusing a Superfund site can be found on the Revitalization Contacts page.

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