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Frequently Asked Questions

The Questions


The Answers

What is the Superfund?

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 (42 U.S.C.s/s 9601 et seq) provides a federal "Superfund" to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites as well as accidents, spills and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants into the environment. The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.) reauthorized CERCLA to continue cleanup activities around the country.

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What is the National Priorities List (NPL)?

The National Priorities List is a published list of contaminated sites which are eligible for extensive, long-term cleanup action under the Superfund program. It is required that the NPL be maintained and revised at least annually. To browse these sites, please see EPA's List of cleanup up sites in New Jersey.

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Where does the money for cleaning up Superfund sites come from?

The Superfund Trust Fund was set up to pay for the clean up of sites. The money came mainly from taxes on the chemical and petrochemical industries, however, the tax expired in 1995. Since then, direct appropriations from the general fund have been made for the clean up of Superfund sites. Funds have also been obtained from the monies recovered from Responsible Party settlements.

The costs associated with the clean up of a site where the companies or the person responsible for the contamination is identified are paid for directly by the responsible party. Public funds are used primarily when responsible parties (RP) cannot be found, or cannot perform or pay for the cleanup work. USEPA and NJDEP can expend public monies to complete the required site work and seek treble damages from the responsible party. The possibility of having to pay three times the state's cleanup costs has been and continues to be a significant incentive for responsible parties to clean up their own sites.

More than three billion dollars from the Superfund program has been funneled to New Jersey sites since the early 1980s. During the remedial process at publicly funded Superfund sites, USEPA provides 100 percent of the funding for investigation and design work. Also, USEPA provides 90 percent of the funding for Remedial Action work, with NJDEP paying for the remaining 10 percent. NJDEP pays 100 percent of the long-term operation and maintenance costs at a site.

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How can I find out the status of a Superfund site cleanup?

To find summary reports describing the status of remedial work, please click on the site of interest on EPA's List of cleanup up sites in New Jersey. For more information, please contact NJDEP or USEPA at the following locations:

NJDEP Site Remediation Program
Office of Community Relations
609-984-3081 or 1-800-253-5647

USEPA - Region II
Community Relations Office
212-637-3675
http://www.epa.gov/region2/

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What's involved in cleaning up a Superfund site?

The Superfund process begins when a site is discovered. After the site is screened and assessed, a decision is made as to whether the site warrants No Action, Early Action, and/or Long-Term Action. These sites may be referred to as removal sites. Early Actions are taken at sites that may pose immediate threats to people or the environment. Long-Term Actions are taken at sites that require extensive cleanup. Built into that process are several phases.

First, a detailed study of the site is done to identify the cause and extent of contamination at the site, the possible threats to the environment and the people nearby, and the options for cleaning up the site. Next, a Proposed Plan is developed and presented to citizens and to local and state officials for comment. The Proposed Plan describes the various cleanup options under consideration and identifies the option USEPA and NJDEP prefer. After a public meeting and comment period, the public's concerns are addressed and a Record of Decision is published. This document describes how the agency plans to cleanup the site.

The goal of Superfund Community Involvement is to advocate and strengthen early and meaningful community participation during Superfund cleanups.

The cleanup method is then designed to address the unique conditions at the site where it will be used. That is followed by the remedial action or construction phase. That could involve confinement, dredging, neutralization, recycling, removal, reuse, storage or treatment of hazardous substances. It may take a long time to return a site to the way it was before it was contaminated, or to at least make it safe for people living around the site.

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How many Superfund sites are there in New Jersey and are they the only contaminated sites in the state?

Superfund sites are usually the more complex sites where multiple media (soil, ground water, etc) are affected and a threat to public health may exist. Remedial work at most Superfund sites is typically a long-term, multi-year project. For the most up-to-date list, please see EPA's List of cleanup up sites in New Jersey.

NJDEP produces a list of Known Contaminated Sites in New Jersey, where contamination of soil or ground water is confirmed and where remediation is either underway or pending. The remediation of sites identified in this report represents a wide variety of activities, ranging from relatively simple "cut and scrape" cleanups to highly complex remediations, such as Superfund sites.

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Contacts

NJDEP Site Remediation Program
Office of Community Relations
609-984-3081 or 1-800-253-5647

USEPA - Region II (NY, NJ, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands)
Community Relations Office
212-637-3675