SuperFund Clean-up Law Turns 35 | Construction News

On the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the important role this landmark law has played in the nation’s efforts to clean up  hazardous waste sites and to protect  human health and the environment.

“Clean land, surface water, and groundwater are critical elements for healthy and vibrant communities. For the past 35 years, Superfund cleanups have been a positive force in protecting communities’ health, environment and economic well being,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.  “Superfund has been making a visible difference in communities by returning the country’s most hazardous waste sites to ecological, recreational, industrial, military, commercial, residential and other productive uses.”

The Superfund law, signed by President Jimmy Carter on December 11, 1980, gives EPA the authority to clean up contamination and directs EPA to update the National Priorities List (NPL) at least annually. EPA and its partners continue to discover new sites qualifying for NPL addition. The contamination of some sites was caused by recent activity. At other sites, contamination has been discovered due to factors such as increased population growth, urban growth and the migration of contaminants from the source.

From reducing children’s blood-lead levels to providing clean drinking water, Superfund cleanups protect communities’ health and environmental well being. The National Bureau of Economic Research study, “Superfund Cleanups and Infant Health,” shows that investment in Superfund cleanups reduces the incidence of congenital abnormalities in infants by as much as 25 percent for those living within approximately 2,100 yards of a site. Cleanups involving lead-contaminated soil have contributed to documented reduced blood-lead levels in children. If left unaddressed, elevated blood-lead levels may result in irreversible neurological deficits, such as lowered intelligence and attention-related behavioral problems.

Superfund also has made a visible difference in communities by returning the country’s most hazardous waste sites to ecological, recreational, industrial, military, commercial, residential and other productive uses, creating economic opportunities that have led to more than 3,400 businesses generating annual sales of over $31 billion as of the end of fiscal year 2014. Further, a study by researchers at Duke and Pittsburgh universities found that once a site has all cleanup remedies in place, nearby property values reflect a significant increase as compared to their values prior to the site being proposed for the NPL.

Through its Superfund enforcement actions, EPA compels polluters to pay for cleanup and deters activities that harm a community’s health and environment. Ensuring polluters, and not taxpayers, pay for cleanup of hazardous waste sites is an enforcement priority. The Superfund emergency response program responds to chemical, oil, biological, and radiological releases and large-scale national emergencies, including homeland security. Other federal agencies, as well, use Superfund authorities to respond to contamination on their current or former facilities.

Learn More about the 35th Anniversary: EPA’s Superfund 35th anniversary website is the primary portal of information on anniversary activities and achievements. This website features the history and milestones of the program, and links to site-specific success stories captured in different media (videos, case studies, blogs, etc).