A superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated with so much waste and pollution that the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the land to be cleaned up because it poses a risk to human health.

There are two laws that essentially legislate clean up of superfund sites: the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA).  These acts give the EPA the power to assess the danger a piece of land poses to people’s health, put it on a National Priorities List for clean-up, and set up a short-term or long-term cleaning project.

Who Pays for the Clean-Up Process of a Superfund Site?

There are two ways clean-ups are paid for: 

  • If the culprit who contaminated the land is known, the EPA can charge them for the cost of a clean-up.  Generally, it is a company who operated on the land that dealt with hazardous materials such as volatile chemicals or oil.  Once the EPA has found the contaminator, they set up a payment plan so that the contaminator can fund the clean-up of pollution they caused.
  • If the EPA cannot find who contaminated the land or the perpetrators do not have the ability to pay for the whole clean up process, the EPA can dip into a fund provided by a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries to pay for the decontamination of the land.

What Can I Do if I Think My Area May Be Contaminated by a Local Company? 

First, you probably want to contact the EPA and let them know that you think your land may be contaminated.  Next, if you or anyone you know is experiencing health problems or costly living inconveniences as a result of the contaminated land, you may want to contact an experienced lawyer.  A government lawyer can advise you of your rights and let you know if you are entitled to compensation for any medical or other expenses.