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What is Superfund?

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) - commonly known as Superfund - was passed by congress as a federal law in December of 1980. The law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries to:

  • Identify and respond to sites from which releases of hazardous substances into the environment have occurred or could potentially occur;
  • Ensure they are cleaned up by responsible parties or through government funding; and
  • Evaluate damages to natural resources.

The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) was signed into law in October of 1986. SARA was a five-year extension of CERCLA that established remediation standards and increased funding to implement the program. A separate provision reauthorized the program without change through October 1994 when authorization expired. The program continues to function through special appropriated funding while reauthorization of the law is negotiated by congress.

The Federal Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act ("Brownfields Law") was signed into law January 11, 2002. The Brownfields Law amended the CERCLA or 'Superfund' Law and also:

  • provided funding for EPA assessment and cleanup of brownfield properties
  • exempted Superfund liability for contiguous property owners and prospective purchasers
  • clarified appropriate inquiry for innocent landowners
  • authorized funding for state response programs
  • limited EPA enforcement authority at sites cleaned up under a state response program

Additional information about the Brownfields Program in Pennsylvania is available on the Land Recycling Program website.

DEP's Role in the Superfund Program

The Superfund Program involves a state/federal partnership. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has primary responsibility. EPA is obligated to consider and apply laws, standards and technical comments, and community concerns when making cleanup decisions. Pennsylvania finances ten percent of a funded remedial action with the federal government contributing the remaining 90 percent. The commonwealth is responsible for 100 percent of the operation and maintenance costs after the remedial action is complete.

The DEP/EPA implementation of Superfund has resulted in Pennsylvania being a national leader in achieving cleanup results. DEP participates in negotiations with responsible parties for enforcement cleanup actions, the review of remedial investigations and feasibility studies, remedial action design and construction and cost recovery efforts.

Pennsylvania has additional statutory authority under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act and the Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act. These two statutes have given DEP the authority to address contaminated sites that would not be covered by the Superfund Program or state enforcement programs. Please visit the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program or the Land Recycling Program websites for more details.

Useful Information

  • National Priorities List Sites in Pennsylvania
  • November 1, 2005 - EPA Issues Final Rule Setting Criteria For 'All Appropriate Inquiry' Assessments. Entities seeking to buy poperty that may be contaminated with hazardous substances will have to assess those sites using formal investigatory criteria set out in a final rule if they want Superfund liability protection. EPA Final Rule

For more information, contact the Site Remediation Division: (717) 787-0886