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General Superfund FAQs

These pages are based on current EPA information to answer common questions about Superfund (also referred to as CERCLA), and provide general information such as:

bulletHow many Superfund sites are there?
bulletWho cleans up a Superfund site?
bulletHow do people get exposed to hazardous substances?
bulletHow can I tell if there is a Superfund site near me?
bulletWhere can I find a description of a Superfund site near my home?
bulletThe EPA uses a lot of abbreviations. Is there a list of these abbreviations and their meanings?
bulletWhat is the difference between hazardous and other waste?
bulletWhat do I do if I find some barrels or tires dumped in the woods?

Didn't find the answer you need there?  Try this complete list

See a Complete List of FAQs.

Or try the FAQs search engine for EPA Superfund questions and answers!

 

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How many Superfund sites are there?

The Final National Priorities List (NPL) Sites indicates the status and number of sites on the NPL. The NPL is a published list of hazardous waste sites in the country that are being cleaned up under the Superfund Program.

These high priority Superfund sites are located across the country and in several U.S. territories. More information about the NPL is available.

To locate Superfund sites across the country, click here:

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Who cleans up a Superfund site?

Superfund cleanups are very complex and require the efforts of many experts in science, engineering, public health, management, law, community relations, and numerous other fields. There are a number of groups within EPA and other government agencies that play a leading role in Superfund site cleanups. EPA has specialists spread out across the ten EPA regions in the country who are responsible for cleanup activities, including On-Scene Coordinators, Community Relations Coordinators, and Site Assessment specialists. National teams of specialists from the EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard, The U.S. Corps of Engineers, and ATSDR take part in Superfund cleanup efforts too.

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How do people get exposed to hazardous substances?

There are a number of ways that people are exposed, such as through:

  bulletContaminated air;bulletDirect contact with hazardous waste;bulletContaminated drinking water;bulletFire or Explosion;bulletThe food chain;bulletContaminated ground water;bulletContaminated Soil; andbulletContaminated surface water.

The sources of exposure vary depending on the site and all of these exposure threats do not exist at every site. That's why the EPA scientists must assess a site and figure out the type of exposure threats that exist. Once they know that, the best way to protect the health of the surrounding community and environment can be determined and the cleanup can begin.

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How can I tell if there is a Superfund site near me?

To search for local Superfund sites, start with the "Site Information" page. You can get there easily by clicking the "Site Information" button located on the top left hand menu bar on this page

You can search for information about nearby sites on this page in three ways. The first way is to use the clickable map of the United States. After you jump to your state, you can choose from symbols marking sites that are:

  bulletFinalizedbulletProposedbulletConstruction CompletedbulletDeletedbulletPartially Deleted

When you chose a site to inspect, you will be sent to a chart (also found by scrolling below the state map) that lists each site by county. This chart also provides basic information about the site. You can browse through this general information, or click on one site in particular to get more details.

A second method for searching out sites in your area is to conduct a "Hazardous Waste Site Information Query," accessible through the sidebar, and again as you scroll down the Site Information page. You can enter key words in basic or advanced search mode to find sites that match your specific area of interest.

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Where can I find a description of a Superfund site near my home?

Records about hazardous waste sites are available to the public. The first place to look is at the EPA web listing of NPL sites. Once there, click on your state. You'll see a map of the state with Superfund sites marked on it. Either click on a site on the map or scroll down the page. The site name, ID number and listing dates are shown. Click on the site name and you will find a description of the site.

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The EPA uses a lot of abbreviations. Is there a list of these abbreviations and their meanings?

The abbreviations you are talking about are called acronyms (like EPA, which stands for Environmental Protection Agency). They're annoying as heck, especially since many writers haven't learned the rules of good writing include defining each term or acronym the first time it appears in a document!  Here's a set of pages called Terms of Environment that explains terms and acronyms commonly used in EPA documents and publications.

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What is the difference between hazardous and other waste?

Ordinary waste, not specifically classified as hazardous, is defined by the EPA as any garbage, refuse, or sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded material. Discarded material includes solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations, and from community activities.  These wastes are collectively called "Solid Wastes" in the regulations - even though they can be solid, liquid, gas or any mixture!  Typical government confusion!

Waste is considered to be hazardous under state and federal regulations when it is ignitable, corrosive, or reactive (explosive). Also, if waste contains certain amounts of toxic chemicals, it is considered hazardous. There are 500 specific hazardous wastes that have been defined by the EPA. For more information on this subject, visit Basic Facts About Solid Waste

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What do I do if I find some barrels or tires dumped in the woods?

First, don't touch any dumped waste that you find since there is a chance that you could be injured.

There are several places you can contact to take care of the waste. From the EPA Superfund homepage click on Regional Programs, then go to your district's homepage. Next, choose your state. On the left side of your state page, you should click on Department Contacts and Reference Information. On this page, you will find the primary number for the State Department of the Environment, or you can access local information by choosing Emergency Numbers, or Regional Office Location. These offices will help you determine if the waste you have found is hazardous, and how to get it cleaned up.

Another option for locating state contact information is to go to State, Local, and Tribal Environmental Networks (SLATE Networks) page, which is accessible from the EPA homepage. Follow State Contacts through to your state listings.

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