Brendan Dukes


The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as the Superfund Act, was signed in by Congress as a national law on December 11, 1980, with the overall goal of establishing a direct plan of response to hazardous waste releases. The components of the CERCLA are:

  1. Provisions and requirements were set up to manage abandoned hazardous waste areas.
  2. People were placed at liability for any release of waste that could have occurred in an active or abandoned waste site.
  3. A tax was put in place on chemical and petroleum industries
  4. A trust fund was built with the purpose of providing relief for release cleanup when necessary.
  5. Removal response actions were put into place, and the Federal government was given the power to directly respond to releases or threatened releases.
  6. The National Contingency Plan was revised by editing the guidelines used to respond to waste releases or threats.

Successes of CERCLA

Within five years of the CERCLA being signed into law, 1.6 billion dollars were collected from the industry taxes and the trust fund that was established has allowed for money to be put in towards identifying and cleaning hazardous waste sites. In 2000, the CERCLA had finished construction and cleanup in over 750 sites and locations. Each year abandoned waste sites are transformed into soccer fields, golf courses, and other useable recreational land. One example of this is in Anaconda, Montana, where a large copper smelting and processing mine was transformed into a golf course. In York County, Virginia, a hazardous site located around a community creek was transformed into a recreational park.

Failures of CERCLA

The law is not without its flaws, and there have been many failures in the past thirty years. The greatest challenge for the responders and the law occurs with sites near moving bodies of water. In these sites, the remedy process is overbearingly long and is not as thorough as it could be. One of the more common examples occurred in the New Bedford Harbor Area in Massachusetts. At this site, which has been worked on for thirty years, the EPA has put in more time and money (the total should cost forty years and $1.2 billion) than necessary, using remedies that have not hurt the environment but have certainly not helped it. Other water body sites have followed a similar trend in Wisconsin, New York, and New Jersey. The EPA-led program is also challenged with using remedies that are too simple for success. While many of the 750 locations restored came with little harm to the budget or time, other locations have been drastic failures and have cost more than they are worth. In order for the Superfund Act to continue to improve environmental concerns, it must first develop more innovative and cost effective strategies so that money is not wasted and the cleanup is a permanent solution.


The CERCLA was amended in October 17, 1986 be the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act. This called for a revision in the Hazard Ranking System (registered degree of threat) and stressed upon release remedies that were innovative and permanent in their effect. State and citizen involvement were also added in this amendment, as state laws and regulations were placed in front of CERCLA rules, and citizen participation on decisions were integrated into the system.


Sara overview. (2011, 12 12). Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/superfund/policy/sara.htm

Superfund success stories. (2012, 12 5). Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/superfund/accomp/success/thumbs.htm

Sanoff, R. (2012, 8 16). The dismal history of superfund’s water body sites. Retrieved from http://www.lawandenvironment.com/2012/08/the-dismal-history-of-superfunds-water-body-sites/