How does a site become a "Superfund" site?

Contact: Joseph Walczak (517) 284-5167

Sites become "Superfund" sites through an evaluation process called "Superfund Site Assessment."  In Michigan, these assessments are conducted by the DEQ's Site Assessment Group in the Superfund Section.  Superfund Site Assessment work consists of discovery, evaluation, and nomination of contamination sites to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) as defined in the Comprehensive Environmental Remediation, Compensation, and Liabilities Act (CERCLA). 

Discovery is the official entry point for contamination sites into the Superfund NPL process.  Sites can be discovered into the process through requests by the USEPA; state agencies; local, state, or federal health departments; or by private citizens.  Once a site is discovered, it must be evaluated to determine whether it qualifies for listing on the NPL.  The first step in the traditional Site Assessment process is the Preliminary Assessment (PA).  PAs are typically non-sampling information searches used to determine whether the site has the potential to qualify for the NPL. If this evaluation determines that the site does not qualify for the NPL, it will be given No Further Remedial Action Planned (NFRAP) status and archived on CERCLIS.  NFRAP status means the USEPA no longer plans any action toward NPL listing on the site.

If the recommendation of the PA is to continue in the process, the next step is the Site Inspection (SI).  During the SI, additional data, including sampling of source areas, soils, groundwater, surface water, and sediments are gathered to further evaluate the site.  These data are collected in such a manner that they can be used in preparing a Hazard Ranking System (HRS) nomination package for the site.  Recommendations from the SI could be to designate the site as NFRAP, to perform a second SI to collect additional data for scoring purposes, or to prepare an HRS scoring package and nominate the site to the NPL.

The HRS is the USEPA's tool for scoring sites for the NPL.  If the recommendation of the SI is to nominate the site to the NPL, a HRS scoring package is prepared for the site.  Once the HRS package is prepared, the site is proposed to the NPL in the Federal Register with the HRS package. If, after public comment on the proposal and HRS package, the site still qualifies for the NPL, the NPL decision is made final. The site then moves into the remedial process of the Superfund program.

Additional work is performed in the Site Assessment process in working with the USEPA on Time-Critical and Non Time-Critical Removal Actions (TCRA & NTCRA). Work on TCRAs includes assisting the USEPA Emergency Removal Branch with site investigations and integrating assessments of contamination sites. NTCRA work includes participating in Site Assessment Teams to determine appropriate actions at a site, performing Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analyses for determining remedial options, and performing the actual removal action.

Additional information is available on the Site Assessment process through the USEPA Headquarters home page or through the U.S. EPA Region 5 home page.  

All sites discovered into the Superfund process, and their associated activities, are tracked by the USEPA on CERCLIS, the CERCLA Inventory System.  Information for CERCLA sites in Michigan may be found on the CERCLIS web page.