The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 is a federal law that provides for the cleanup of some of the most contaminated sites in the United States. It is most commonly referred to as the “Superfund,” which is actually the money set aside to help the EPA and other agencies complete this task, although sometimes the parties responsible for the pollution are also required to pay. There are hundreds of these sites across the country. Most likely, one of them sits pretty close to your backyard. For example, I was surprised to learn that the Tucson International Airport is on the list.
Most of these sites don’t look like ugly pits of mine runoff. Many of them have been allowed to grow over with wildflowers and support abundant wildlife. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the ground is full of mercury, or mustard gas, or some terrible byproduct of industry that will cause your entire family to die of cancer.
There are approximate 1300 sites on the list, with over 100 more whose addition has been proposed. These are only the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many places that would qualify for the list but lack the activists necessary to get that attention.
Fewer than 400 Superfund sites have been successfully decontaminated in the last 35 years.
Check out this handy list to find your nearest pile of toxic waste.