What is CERCLA?

CERCLA stands for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as "Superfund."

The law was passed in 1980 to address releases or potential releases of hazardous substances into the environment. The law provides the federal govermnent authority to respond to sites that exist due to the improper disposal or management of waste. These sites include former military bases, manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills and mining sites. CERCLA provides the framework for the federal government to follow in order to assess and cleanup contaminated sites.

How does CERCLA work?

Through a complex and multi-step process, the lead agency ensures a thorough assessment and characterization of the site.

Graphic diagram showing eight steps in the CERCLA process
CERCLA Process



Many factors including completion of studies necessary to determine the nature and extent of contamination, possible risk posed, evaluation of alternatives to cleanup the site and public comment periods result in the CERCLA process taking years to complete.

Last updated: March 3, 2020

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