What Is C.E.R.C.L.A?

C.E.R.C.L.A or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act was developed to use chemical and petroleum industry taxes to create a Superfund for environmental clean up.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was developed and enacted on December 11, 1980, for the purpose of taxing chemical and petroleum industries. The tax money is collected and used for the clean up of hazardous sites. This is also more commonly known as the Superfund.

Approximately $1.6 billion was collected from this tax in five years. The money has been put aside and used for hazardous waste sites that are not controlled or have been abandoned. CERCLA has set up rules that place responsibility on those people who are accountable for releasing or causing the release of hazardous waste at a designated site. If no person can be found liable, then the Superfund money is to be used for the clean up activities. CERCLA has two types of actions possible for clean up procedures. If a site requires immediate handling of a hazardous release, then CERCLA performs a short-term action for the removal of the substance. If a site is more intensely contaminated, then CERCLA calls for a long term response to remediate the site to eliminate the dangers that are potentially harmful, but not immediately so. A long term remediation project can only be performed on sites that have been listed on the EPA's National Priorities List, which places the most dangerous sites in order of priority for clean up.

The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) amended CERCLA on October 17, 1986. Some of the changes to CERCLA were increase the fund to $8.5 billion, bring attention to the actual dangers to human health from hazardous waste sites, encourage the public to become more involved in the decision making process about clean up methods, obtain more involvement from individual States for Superfund sites within their boundaries, and to work more toward permanent solutions and the use of new technology for clean up methods. SARA also called for the EPA to make changes to the Hazard Ranking System, so that this system would more accurately note the level of danger to humans and the environment that sites to be placed on the National Priorities List possess. The National Priorities list must be revised and re-published every two years and informally reviewed every year. Some of the substances on the priority list include; arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), cyanide, methane, zinc, nickel, carbon tetrachloride, chromium, radon, barium, tritium, etc. There are hundreds of chemicals and substances on the list and each one is ranked based upon its frequency of occurrence at National Priorities List sites, its toxicity and how likely it is to affect human health.

The list contains those chemicals or substances that qualify under the above guidelines, which means the list may not contain the most dangerous or volatile chemicals, but those that are in the greatest quantity at the National Priorities List sites, or those that can cause the greatest harm to human health because they are in a greater frequency at a particular site. This list gets revised and amended at least every two years when the National Priorities List is reviewed. The Superfund process has been responsible for many successful decontaminations and clean ups since its origin.

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