United States CERCLA/Superfund Act

In 1980 the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was enacted to deal with the large number of uncontrolled hazardous waste dumps for which no liability could be assigned. The was a direct response to the environmental catastrophe that was Love Canal.

The act levied a tax on the petroleum and chemical industries (the “Superfund” - often used as a synonym for CERCLA) to help pay for remediation of abandoned sites, as well as providing a framework for the assignment of liability and definition of appropriate remedial action and targets.

The two main classes of response are removal actions (mostly aimed at short-term, acute hazards) and remedial actions (longer term, chronic contamination).

The US EPA, which administers the Superfund, has developed a set of risk-based Regional Screening Levels (RSLs, formerly Preliminary Remediation Goals (PRGs)) to guide the assesment and remediation of Superfund sites.