Friday, June 17, 2011


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The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as CERCLA or the Superfund, came about in response to the discovery of a large amount of hazardous waste dumps that were threatening human health and contaminating the environment. It orders the clean-up of all areas where hazardous substances have been released and present a threat to public health and the environment. Many of these dumps have been abandoned and slowly been discovered after years of contamination to the surrounding land. One example of this is the Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, where a chemical company had buried large amounts of hazardous waste in a canal, which was originally designed to transport water. The canal was capped off and eventually an elementary school and later a town was built in this area. After some time, a large amount of people in the community began to complain about fumes in the air and chemicals coming out of the ground. Many people also started to develop serious health problems. From these complaints, the government began testing the area and came to find large amounts of contaminants in the area. In 178 this area was declared a federal disaster area. Most of the residence were relocated elsewhere. This posed a large problem because the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act didn’t provide any help because it didn’t involve current or future waste management. This was something that was caused from past parties. And legal actions weren’t going to help at all because that was going to be too long of a process and very costly. Slowly after, more and more waste dump areas with this sort of problem started to come about. So Congress was forced to pass CERCLA to clean up the hazardous waste sites around the country that were similar to the Love Canal situation.

In 180, The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act was passed by Congress. This created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided authority for the government to respond directly to releases or possible releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Over five years, $1.6 billion was collected and the tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites where a responsible party could not be found. CERCLA established certain requirements concerning closed and abandoned hazardous waste sites. It also made the responsible parties liable for releases of hazardous waste at these sites. Specifically, CERCLA states that those who own or operate a contaminated area or site, those who transport the hazardous substances to that site, and those who produce those substances must pay for the clean-up. So if there is a dump site with hazardous substances, the owner of the dumpsite or the operator of that dumpsite will be held responsible for the clean-up of the dump. The people who created the hazardous materials will also be held responsible and whoever transports the materials to the dumpsite will also have to pay for the clean-up. On top of that, CERCLA states that if a site was polluted before 180, the owner, operator, transporter, producer and generator will still be liable for the clean-up even though at the time when they polluted the area, they weren’t doing anything illegal because the law didn’t even exist.

This, which is probably not very fair to some people, created a way for the cleanup of

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these contaminated areas to be possible.

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