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10 examples of why the Superfund program matters

By: Bryan Nelson on Oct. 12, 2017, 11:20 a.m.
junk and sewage in Gowanus Canal

Photo: Jeffrey/Flickr

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Toxic turnaround

The U.S. Superfund program was created in 1980 to clean up the country's most toxic places. It gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new authority to identify the parties responsible for noxious hazards nationwide, and to make them clean up their messes on their own dime. The program (formally titled the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA) is vital for keeping corporations from ruining our land, air and water without consequence.

Today, more than 1,300 sites are on the program's national priorities list. One might exist near you, since about 53 million Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site.

That's why it's worth keeping tabs on the successes and setbacks of the Superfund program. Its original funding source — taxes paid by polluters — was allowed to expire in 1995, and congressional funding has been dwindling for years. The Trump administration has proposed further budget cuts, yet despite meager funds, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has also pledged to ramp up the agency's focus on certain Superfund sites.

To illustrate the ongoing importance of this program, here's a closer look at 10 of the country's most prominent Superfund sites.

Editor's note: This photo gallery has been updated since it originally appeared in March 2013.