Asbestos exposure is a public health risk that can sometimes take on crisis-like proportions. Nowhere is this more evident than inside the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) asbestos superfund sites.
What is Superfund?
While the EPA classifies large sites containing dangerous levels of hazardous waste of any kind as superfund, this article is focusing on asbestos superfunds. Superfund sites primarily include manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites (both defunct & in-use) that contain dangerous levels of hazardous materials.
Superfund is actually the informal name for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The act, established in 1980, allows the EPA to clean up designated sites and force the responsible parties to provide compensation or labor for the cleanup. The ‘superfund’ can refer to funds used by the CERCLA act when no party exists to pay for a site cleanup (due to the death of a private owner or dissolution of a corporation).
How does Superfund Work?
Superfund designation, classification, and cleanup all take place in a specific order:
- Preliminary Inspection. An EPA representative or auditor will conduct an inspection of a site based on historical data and whatever the inspection turns up. This inspection determines whether or not the site needs to be added to the superfund and the level of danger/priority of the cleanup.
- Priority. If a site inspection turns out to be ‘bad,’ the site may will be added to a cleanup list at a certain priority level. The most dangerous sites are added to the National Priorities List (NPL).
- Investigation & Feasibility Study. After inspection and classification, the EPA will further investigate the site for the feasibility of cleanup & disposal plans. Costs associated with potential cleanup methods are also examined during this step.
- Decisions & Approval. After recommendations based on investigations are made, a plan for a superfund cleanup will be selected and approved by the EPA.
- Remedial Design & Action. During this step, the approved plan will be further designed, reviewed, and put into action. All approved cleanup & disposal phases will be completed during this step.
- Construction/Post-Construction Cleanup. In some cases structures must be built to replace contaminated ones on a specific superfund site. In these cases, inspections must be made to assure the new structures don’t contribute to future hazardous material dispersion.
- NPL Deletion. As soon as any cleanup action or construction has been completed and reviewed, a site can be removed from the NPL.
- Site Redevelopment. For defunct sites, the EPA can decide to rehabilitate the area for future use.
Asbestos is a particularly dangerous health hazard the superfund addresses. Due to the cancers caused by asbestos exposure, many asbestos superfund sites are listed on the NPL. Still, many sites need to be reviewed for potential addition to the NPL, as thousands of older buildings and sites may contain extreme levels of asbestos.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos information, remediation, or removal check the resources below: