The step-by-step process of cleaning up a Superfund site

There are over 1,000 Superfund sites all over the United States. These hazardous waste sites are fenced off for the safety of those who live around them.

So, why don’t we just clean them all up? Well, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “Cleaning up Superfund sites is a complex, multi-phase process.”

This blog post will run through every step it takes to get the site to the “reuse/redevelopment,” stage of the process. So, here are the nine steps to cleaning up a Superfund site.

  1. Preliminary Assessment/ Site Investigation

According to EPA.gov, “The preliminary assessment (PA) involves gathering historical and other available information about site conditions to evaluate whether the site poses a threat to human health and the environment and/or whether further investigation is needed.”

This site investigation tests soil, air and water. The process helps determine if the site needs immediate action or can be handled over time.

The PA and site investigation assist in determining the environmental and human risks of the area. It also determines the site’s Hazardous Ranking Score (HRS).

While this process is occurring, the EPA may issue warnings to local communities through local news or flyers.

  1. National Priorities List (NPL) Site Listing Process

According to ToxicSites.us, if a site receives a 28.5 or higher, it qualifies for the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). These sites are marked down by the EPA for long-term cleanup.

If a site is added to this list, the EPA will notify the public of its intent to add that site to the Federal Register, according to EPA.gov. The community then has a chance to comment on the issue.

Once the comment period is over and all comments are replied to, the decision of whether the site receives Superfund is answered. If it qualifies, then it is officially listed on the NPL.

  1. Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS)

This part of the process determines the extent of the contamination at the site.

According to EPA.gov, “EPA staff will interview community members, local officials, and others to gather information about the site and the community and to learn how community members want to be involved in the cleanup process.”

Based on the study of the community, the EPA will come up with a few plans and then decide on which they will follow through with.

  1. Record of Decision (ROD)

This fourth step determines which of the proposed plans the EPA has chosen. This record has the site’s history, description and characteristics.

The ROD also includes information on how the site could be used in the future, according to EPA.gov.

Once the site’s Community Involvement Coordinator makes sure the plan for cleanup lines up with the ROD, then they can begin the next step.

  1. Remedial Design/Remedial Action (RD/RA)

Finally, we start to clean the site. In this step of the process, the bulk of the cleanup is done.

Through this process the EPA will keep the community in the loop of the site’s progress. Community members can even attend public events about how the site is coming along.

  1. Construction Completion

This step is pretty self-explanatory. According to EPA.gov, If there was any construction that needed to be completed during the process of this cleanup, this is the step in which it is all finished.

Not very sure why this gets its own step, but I suppose it does mean they’re thorough.

This is the the shortest step in the whole process.

  1. Post-Construction Completion

This is the step that double-checks the site. It ensures that Superfund cleanups are for the long-term protection of the people in the community and the environment.

The EPA will make sure the site will stay clean and will provide the necessary technology to keep the site healthy.

Concerned members of the community can even visit the site to make sure everything is safe in their hometown.

  1. Deletion from the National Priorities List

When all the prior steps are completed, the EPA will send out a notice for its intent to remove the site from the NPL.

If the site qualifies for deletion from the NPL, the EPA sends out a notice to the community and publishes it in the Federal Register.

The community is able to comment on the site before its deletion from the list just so the EPA doesn’t miss anything.

  1. Reuse/Redevelopment

This is what we’ve all been waiting for.

Finally, the site is ready to be reused for anything the community wants. The EPA works with the community to use the former NPL site for productive reasons.

EPA.gov suggests commercial, residential or recreational uses for the site. No matter what, the community will help make the decision and has say in what will happen next.

 

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