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Superfund Alternative Approach

Generally, EPA’s Superfund program has three options for Superfund sites that need long-term (remedial) clean ups:

  • Listing the site on the National Priorities List (NPL),
  • Addressing the site using other clean up options (e.g., other federal or state programs).
  • Using the Superfund alternative approach.

The Superfund alternative (SA) approach uses the same investigation and cleanup process and standards that are used for sites listed on the NPL. The SA approach is an alternative to listing a site on the NPL; it is not an alternative to Superfund or the Superfund process.

The SA approach can potentially save the time and resources associated with listing a site on the NPL. As long as a PRP enters into an SA approach agreement with EPA, there is no need for EPA to list the site on the NPL (although the site qualifies for listing on the NPL).

Currently, sites with SA approach agreements are a small subset of all Superfund cleanup agreements.

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Threshold Criteria for Using the Superfund Alternative Approach

Threshold eligibility criteria for using the Superfund alternative approach are:

  • Site contaminants are significant enough that the site would be eligible for listing on the NPL (i.e., the site would have a Hazard Ranking Score (HRS) ≥ 28.5),
  • A long-term response (i.e., a remedial action) is anticipated at the site, and
  • There is a willing, capable PRP who will negotiate and sign an agreement with EPA to perform the investigation or cleanup.

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Getting Started with the Superfund Alternative Approach

EPA determines if the SA approach is appropriate at a particular site. (A PRP may request that a site be evaluated for the SA approach.) If a site meets criteria 1 and 2 above, EPA and the PRP may choose to negotiate an SA approach agreement. The SA approach agreement is equivalent to an agreement negotiated at an NPL site.

Potentially responsible parties, or a subset of PRPs, may choose not to negotiate an SA approach agreement. In that case, the site would proceed to cleanup on a different path.

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Negotiating Superfund Alternative Approach Agreements

EPA will negotiate SA approach agreements with PRPs for site investigation (usually an administrative order on consent (AOC)) and site cleanup (in the form of a judicial consent decree (CD)).

Both the AOC and the CD include language specific to the SA approach that keeps these sites in an equivalent position to sites listed on the NPL.

EPA has model language for SA approach provisions that address:

  • NPL listing after partial cleanup,
  • Technical assistance for communities,
  • Financial assurance for work continuance, and
  • Natural resource damage claims.

What provisions are needed depends on the work being performed.

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Sites with Superfund Alternative Approach Agreements

As of October 2017, there are approximately 51 sites with active SA approach agreements, 13 additional sites that have completed remedy construction under an SA approach, and 6 sites that had SA approach agreements where the work is now being addressed through another path. Some sites have more than one agreement; in other cases, one agreement addresses multiple sites.

List of specific sites with Superfund alternative approach agreements.

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Community Participation

It is EPA policy for all Superfund alternative approach agreements to include a technical assistance plan provision obligating the PRP to arrange at its own expense for a qualified group to obtain technical assistance services. For more information on community participation at sites with Superfund alternative approach agreements, see Transmittal of Updated Superfund Response and Settlement Approach for Sites Using the Superfund Alternative Approach (SAA Guidance) (9/28/2012). Also see Interim Guidance: Providing Communities with Opportunities for Independent Technical Assistance in Superfund Settlements (9/3/2009)

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Resource Information

The following resources provide additional information on the SA approach and the Superfund program:

Learn More: Superfund Unilateral Orders

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