Superfund Task Force Recommendations and Accomplishments
These pages highlight the accomplishments of the Superfund Task Force under each of its five goals.
Superfund Task Force Final Report
The Task Force released its final report in September 2019. The report covers the Task Force’s accomplishments and the Agency’s plans to build and expand on this important work moving forward.
Stories of Progress
Through the work of the Task Force, sites across the country have seen notable progress in accelerated cleanups, site redevelopment, community revitalization, and expedited reduction of risks to human health and the environment. We have compiled some of the many stories of progress into an interactive story-telling tool to highlight the lasting work of the Superfund Task Force.
Tracking our Progress - Next Steps
While EPA has concluded the Superfund Task Force, this important work continues until every site on the NPL is cleaned up and deleted. To ensure the integration of the work completed under the Task Force into the Superfund program, EPA has identified performance metrics to impose accountability on the Agency in implementing lessons learned during Task Force efforts.
Goal 1: Expediting Cleanup and Remediation
The Task Force employed four strategies to expedite cleanup and remediation:
- Evaluate and accelerate National Priorities List sites to completion
- Promote the application of adaptive management at complex sites and expedite cleanup through use of early/interim RODs and removal actions
- Clarify policies/guidance to expedite remediation
- Use best management practices, systematic planning, remedy optimization, and access to expert technical resources to expedite remediation
To learn how EPA will integrate the work completed under the Task Force into the Superfund Program, see:
You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.
Recommendation 1: Oversee Administrator's Emphasis List of Superfund Sites
- Released Administrator's Emphasis List
EPA released the Administrator’s Emphasis List on December 8, 2017. In developing this list, EPA considered sites that could benefit from the Administrator’s direct engagement and that have identifiable actions to protect human health and the environment. The Emphasis List is designed to spur action at sites where opportunities exist to act quickly and comprehensively and is dynamic; sites move on and off the list according to which ones need the Administrator’s attention and focus most. Significant progress has been made at each of the sites because of this special emphasis. Since 2017, EPA has removed 16 sites from the list after short-term milestones were achieved. EPA will continue to update the list about once a quarter.
Administrator's Emphasis List
Recommendation 1: Prioritize and take action to expeditiously effectuate control over any site where human exposure is not fully controlled
- Launched Superfund Human Exposure Dashboard
In 2017, the Superfund program provided the Administrator with a comprehensive list of Superfund sites considered to be “human exposure not under control” at that time and the actions being taken or to be taken to bring each site to “human exposure under control” status.
In January 2018, EPA launched the interactive Human Exposure Dashboard that provides the status of EPA’s site-wide Human Exposure environmental indicator for each National Priorities List and Superfund Alternative Approach site in a single, easily accessible webpage. Human Exposure is one of the metrics EPA uses to communicate its progress in cleaning up Superfund sites. For each site where status is either "human exposure not under control" or where there is currently insufficient data to make a human exposure determination (i.e., status of Human Exposure Insufficient Data), the dashboard contains details as to why the site is not "human exposure under control."
Most importantly, the Superfund program successfully effectuated control at a net total of 24 sites in FY 2017 and 32 sites in FY 2018, compared to 12 sites in FY 2016.
Human Exposure Dashboard
- Established Environmental Indicator Best Management Practices
EPA established and is implementing environmental indicator best management practices for managing human exposure at sites nationally, with an overarching goal to effectuate control at Superfund sites where human exposure is not currently under control. The Agency identified sites estimated to become “under control” within the next five fiscal years (i.e., FY 2019 through FY 2023) and identified steps to accelerate the sites’ achievement of the “human exposure under control milestone (if possible).
Recommendation 1: Develop list of potential NPL sites to target for completion and develop recommendations for tracking and reporting progress
- Developed Internal Visual Management Tool for Tracking and Reporting Cleanup Progress
EPA developed and applied criteria to identify potential NPL sites to target for this recommendation. The program reviewed ongoing projects with unusually long durations to identify root causes. This information is being used to support program metrics development and a methodology for tracking and reporting site investigation and cleanup activities’ progress. EPA created a new internal visual management tool, which will facilitate ongoing projects’ routine review based on project duration and other key site characteristics.
Recommendation 2: Focus resources on maximizing deletions/partial deletions, including review of policy and tracking eligible sites
- Hit 13-Year High in Deleting Superfund Sites
After a review of current NPL deletion policies and practices, EPA developed several recommendations relating to both procedural and technical issues that may affect an NPL site’s deletion or partial deletion. As a result, EPA issued a memorandum to regional offices emphasizing the importance of close coordination between the remedial and legal programs to ensure institutional controls’ timely implementation. The program also now provides the senior Agency officials with a monthly projection of deletion actions. Due to more direct attention to the sites potentially eligible for partial or full deletion, the Agency deleted all or part of 22 sites from the NPL in FY 2018, the largest number of deletions accomplished in one year since FY 2005 and a significant increase over the past few years. In FY 2019, EPA intends to exceed the prior year’s deletion action achievements.
EPA also identified the deletions process as a meaningful project to review under the EPA Lean Management System. A workgroup of headquarters and regional experts conducted a detailed review of the current steps involved in a single deletion action and identified opportunities to reduce redundancies, encourage concurrent process steps, and improve consistency in a manner that will lead to efficiencies.
More Information on NPL Site Deletions
Recommendation 3: Promote the Application of Adaptive Management at Complex Sites
- Superfund Director Issued Memorandum to EPA Regions to Broaden the Use of Adaptive Management at Sites
EPA issued a new memorandum titled “Superfund Task Force Recommendation #3: Broaden the Use of Adaptive Management.” The memorandum provides a working definition of adaptive management for use in the Superfund remedial program and outlines an implementation plan to expand the use of adaptive management at sites.
Superfund Task Force Recommendation #3: Broaden the Use of Adaptive Management Memo (PDF)(6 pp, 1.3 MB)
- Implementing Six Superfund Adaptive Management Task Force Pilots
EPA is implementing six pilots at both the site and project level to demonstrate the benefits of implementing a formal and structured adaptive management process at complex Superfund sites and to collect lessons learned. The pilots represent three complex mining sites and three complex groundwater sites. Lessons learned from the pilot efforts will be used to develop a more detailed adaptive management directive and training in FY 2020.
Adaptive Management Pilot Projects
Recommendation 4: To Better Promote National Consistency and Review, Update the Authority for Approval of the Remedy Selection While Considering the Retained Authority of the Administrator
- Implemented Administrator Review Process for $50 Million Remedy Decisions
EPA developed a review process and flowchart for the Administrator’s review and approval of remedies estimated to cost equal to or greater than $50 million or changes to a remedy with an original cost more than $50 million. As of September 4, 2019, EPA Administrator has participated in the decision-making process for 21 sites.
Revised Delegation of Authority to Prioritize Superfund Remedial Decisions Estimated to Cost $50 Million or More
Superfund Remedy Decisions Estimated to Cost $50 Million or More
- Revised National Remedy Review Board and Contaminated Sediment Technical Advisory Group Charters
EPA is revising the charters for the National Remedy Review Board (NRRB) and the Contaminated Sediment Technical Advisory Group (CSTAG) to ensure greater consistency in national remedy selection. The NRRB peer review process underwent significant revisions, including conducting primary review earlier in the remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS) process and adding follow-up meetings later in remedy development. The CSTAG charter will be modified to engage with regions at select points during the RI/FS rather than on a yearly schedule.
National Remedy Review Board
Contaminated Sediments Technical Advisory Group
Recommendation 5: Clarify Priorities for RI/FS Resources and Encourage Performing Interim/Early Actions During the RI/FS Process to Address Immediate Risks
- Issued Regional Memorandum Reiterating Early and Interim Action Policy and Encouraging Early Action
Based on a review of current interim and early action guidance, EPA has developed a regional memorandum reiterating early and interim action policy and encouraging use of early action (including interim actions and non-time-critical removal actions) as part of RI/FS scoping and throughout the RI/FS process. The memo conveys the key concept that early action, if appropriate, should be developed as part of a dynamic site strategy.
Memorandum on Use of Early Actions at NPL and SAA sites (PDF)(5 pp, 1.5 MB)
Recommendation 6: Provide Clarification to the Principles for Superfund Groundwater Restoration
- Redesigned Groundwater Area of Superfund Website
EPA identified a need to better communicate Superfund groundwater policy and guidance, in particular, available groundwater policy flexibilities. As a first step, the Agency redesigned the way the Superfund website organizes and describes groundwater policy and guidance documents. The revised website provides an introduction to groundwater, how it becomes contaminated, and the different approaches used to address the problem. Each subsection of the website provides a table of contents and clearer guidance descriptions.
Superfund Groundwater Website
- Highlighted Groundwater Flexibilities
EPA highlighted four flexible provisions and two flexible strategies that are found in existing Superfund laws, regulations, policy, and guidance that may be incorporated in the groundwater cleanup approach: monitored natural attenuation, technical impracticability, designated beneficial use, remediation timeframe, phased approach, and completion strategy.
Recommendation 7: Promote Use of Third-Party Optimization Throughout the Remediation Process and Focus Optimization on Complex Sites or Sites of Significant Public Interest
- Completed 26 Third-party Remedy Optimization Evaluations
Between August 2017 and September 2018, EPA initiated 17 and completed 26 third-party remedy optimization evaluations. EPA is compiling a report on lessons learned and the implementation status of more than 300 recent optimization recommendations. Further, EPA has established criteria to allocate optimization resources in a manner consistent with the Task Force’s objectives and priorities. These priorities emphasize optimizing sites that are: “human exposure not under control,” particularly those involving groundwater migration; large and complex, such as large sediment sites and sites with remedies greater than $50 million; projected to be completed within 5-15 years and where optimization may accelerate closure; and on the Emphasis List.
Cleanup Optimization Website
Recommendation 8: Reinforce Focused Scoping Which Closely Targets the Specific Areas for Remediation and Identify and Use Best Management Practices (BMP) in the RI/FS Stage
- Issued Technical Guides to Streamline Site Cleanup
EPA issued three technical guides to assist environmental professionals in scoping, data management and strategic sampling activities to strengthen Superfund site characterization activities. The guides are intended to improve remedy decisions and remedy performance.
Transmittal Memorandum (PDF) (3 pp, 2.7 MB)
Strategic Sampling Approaches Technical Guide (PDF) (26 pp, 1.6 MB)
Smart Scoping for Environmental Investigations Technical Guide (PDF) (19 pp, 528 K)
Best Practices for Data Management Technical Guide (PDF) (14 pp, 397 K)
Recommendation 9: Utilize State-Of-The-Art Technologies to Expedite Cleanup
- Published Two Technical Documents to Further Use of In Situ Remediation Technologies
In Situ Treatment Performance Monitoring: Issues and Best Practices (PDF) describes how in situ treatment technologies may impact sampling and analysis results used to monitor treatment performance and provides best practices to identify and mitigate these issues.
Remedial Technology Fact Sheet– Activated-Carbon Based Technology for In Situ Remediation (PDF) describes a recently-developed remedial technology that applies a combination of activated carbon and chemical or biological amendments for in situ remediation of soil and groundwater contaminated by organic contaminants, primarily petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents.
- Informed, Trained, and Assisted Regional Staff in Applying State-of-the-Art Cleanup Technologies
EPA’s Superfund technology support and transfer program has incorporated the practices initiated under this recommendation to advance promising state-of the-art technologies and tools for streamlining and improving the cost and performance and shortening the duration of site cleanups. Between August 2017 and September 2018, EPA worked directly with site managers by starting 11 site-specific technical support projects related to site characterization and cleanup and completing 21.
Technology transfer efforts include 40 webinars for almost 3,000 participants (including EPA remedial project managers and other EPA cleanup professionals); 12 classroom trainings on groundwater high-resolution site characterization, best practices for site characterization and incremental sampling.
Technologies for Cleaning Up Contaminated Sites
Recommendation 10: Develop a Technical Support Team and Tools to Inform RPMs Regarding Available Resources to Assist with Best Management Practice (BMP) Applications, Including Scoping and Targeted Technical Reviews
- Streamlined Access to In-House Technical Support
EPA announced two internal resources to assist EPA regional Superfund staff in identifying knowledgeable technical support personnel within EPA: the Superfund TechHub and the Contaminated-sites Scientific, Technical and Risk Support (C-STARS) site. TechHub describes and provides contact information for available EPA expertise in headquarters, Office of Research and Development (ORD) laboratories, and issue-specific national workgroups made up of regional, headquarters and ORD staff. C-STARS makes it easier for EPA staff to request technical support directly from ORD’s technical support centers.
In-House Technical Support Memorandum (PDF)(4 pp, 1.2 MB)
Recommendation 11: Review all Third-Party Contracting Procedures, Large EPA- Approved Contractors, and Contracts to Determine Appropriate Use Parameters and Qualification Methods for EPA Contracting
- Created the Remedial Acquisition Framework
The Remedial Acquisition Framework (RAF) is a series of multiple award, indefinite quantity contracts that were competitively awarded in 2018 and 2019. When it becomes fully operational, RAF will expand the pool of vendors available for Superfund remedial program activities. To foster innovation and reduce costs, EPA will compete tasks among the pool of RAF contract holders. EPA awarded the three RAF contract suites as follows: Environmental Services and Operations, August 2018; Design and Engineering Services, September 2018; and, Remediation Environmental Services, October 2019.
Goal 2: Re-invigorating Responsible Party Cleanup and Reuse
The Task Force employed three strategies to re-invigorate responsible party cleanup and reuse:
- Encourage and facilitate responsible parties’ expeditious and thorough cleanup of sites to affect re-use more quickly
- Create oversight efficiencies for PRP-lead cleanups
- Promote redevelopment/reuse of sites by encouraging PRPs to invest in reuse outcomes
To learn how EPA will integrate the work completed under the Task Force into the Superfund Program, see:
You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.
Recommendation 12: Recommend Consideration and Use of Early Response Actions at Superfund Sites, Particularly Sediment Sites, While Comprehensive Negotiations Are Underway for the Entire Cleanup
- Issued New Guidance Memorandum to Accelerate Remedial Design Starts at PRP-Lead Sites
EPA issued a new guidance memorandum titled “Bifurcating Remedial Design and Remedial Action to Accelerate Remedial Design Starts at PRP-Lead Superfund Sites.” The guidance recommends that Regions consider using separate settlement tracks for remedial design and remedial action where negotiations for a single consent decree addressing both remedial design/remedial action is likely to be protracted.
Bifurcating Remedial Design and Remedial Action to Accelerate Remedial Design Starts at PRP-Lead Superfund Sites
Recommendation 13: Identify Opportunities to Utilize Various Federal and State Authorities to Conduct Response Actions that are Consistent with CERCLA and the National Contingency Plan
- Developed a Report Reviewing the Various non-NPL Approaches Suitable for NPL-Caliber Sites
In 2019, EPA developed a summary report reviewing the various non-NPL approaches suitable for NPL-caliber sites in certain situations. The report reviews the basic criteria for using non-NPL approaches and provides data on the historical use of non-NPL approaches. EPA will make the report available to EPA Regions so that non-NPL approaches may be considered as decisions are made on available options to address a contaminated site. Having this information available in a consolidated, easy-reference format may result in the use of a non-NPL approach at some contaminated sites that may have otherwise been listed on the NPL.
Superfund Task Force Recommendation 13: Examine Opportunities to Achieve Protective Cleanup at NPL-Caliber Sites Without Listing on the NPL: Summary of Findings
Recommendation 14: Maximize the Use of Special Accounts to Facilitate Site Cleanup and/or Redevelopment
- In 2018, EPA issued the “Guidance on Disbursement of Funds from EPA Special Accounts to Entities Performing CERCLA Response Actions.” The memorandum is intended to maximize the use of special accounts to facilitate site cleanup and redevelopment. The guidance provides the EPA Regions with information on disbursing special account funds to Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers as an incentive to perform cleanup work, as well as to potentially responsible parties (PRPs) as an incentive to negotiate a settlement. In 2019, EPA issued the “Updated Guidance on the Establishment, Management, and Use of CERCLA Special Accounts” to clarify to EPA Regions effective ways to manage and use special accounts.
Guidance on Disbursement of Funds from Special Accounts to Entities Performing CERCLA Response Actions (PDF) (14 pp, 883 K)
Updated Guidance on the Establishment, Management, and Use of CERCLA Special Accounts (PDF) (16 pp, 883 K)
Recommendation 15: Accelerating Settlements with Federal PRPs
- Addressed Ways to Quickly Resolve Settlement Language Disagreements and Focused on Substantive Issues Delaying Cleanup
To help speed up the settlement process where there are Federal PRPs, EPA: 1) reminded EPA Regions of guidance documents discussing the treatment of federal PRPs in settlement negotiations and to engage federal PRPs in Superfund negotiations as early as possible, and 2) addressed situations when a federal PRP refuses to participate in negotiations and private parties seek to retain their rights against the federal PRPs.
In 2018, EPA, and the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and DOD developed model settlement language to address a common delay in cleanup settlement negotiations that often occurred between EPA and DOD.
June 2019, EPA’s cleanup enforcement program reminded EPA’s regional Superfund branch chiefs in the Office of Regional Counsel about existing EPA guidance on federal PRPs’ involvement and an elevation process to resolve issues quickly when delays arise. The model settlement language and elevation process are intended to be used by EPA Regions to expedite settlement negotiations to help cleanups occur faster.
Recommendation 16: Provide Reduced-Oversight Incentives to Cooperative, High-performing PRPs, and Make Full Use of Enforcement Tools as Disincentives for Protracted Negotiations, or Slow Performance Under Existing Cleanup Agreements
- Completed a Compilation of Regional Practices and Charges of Indirect Costs
In April 2019, an EPA workgroup finalized a Summary of Findings titled “Provide Reduced Oversight Incentives to Cooperative, High-Performing PRPs” that includes that included several recommendations on the appropriate level of oversight during Superfund response work. EPA believes implementing the recommendation may lead to reduced oversight costs.
- Issued Process for Expediting Negotiations and PRP Cleanup Starts Guidance
In June 2019, EPA issued the “2019 Remedial Design/Remedial Action: Process for Expediting Negotiations and PRP Cleanup Starts” guidance to encourage EPA Regions to plan for and promptly obtain PRP commitments to begin cleanup actions following remedy selection. Additionally, EPA is working on a consolidated summary of the numerous CERCLA guidance and policy documents relevant to settlement negotiations and response action oversight and implementation for CERCLA staff.
- Reference Document on Guidance Relevant to Negotiations and Oversight
In response to a survey of EPA and DOJ staff regarding tools to expedite negotiations and cleanups, the Agency determined that a “refresher” reference guide would be useful. EPA issued to the Regional offices a consolidated summary of the numerous CERCLA guidance and policy documents relevant to settlement negotiations and response action oversight and implementation for CERCLA staff.
Provide Reduced Oversight Incentives to Cooperative, High Performing Potentially Responsible Parties
2019 Remedial Design/Remedial Action: Process for Expediting Negotiations and PRP Cleanup Starts
Listening Sessions – Superfund Task Force Recommendation 16
Recommendation 17: Adjust Financial Assurance (FA) Required Under Enforcement Documents to Reduce Cooperating PRP’s Financial Burden While Ensuring Resources Are Available to Complete Cleanups
- Evaluated Relevant Feedback and Assessed Situations Where Financial Assurance Might be Adjusted
EPA evaluated relevant feedback and assessed situations where financial assurance might be adjusted, as well as circumstances that could jeopardize cleanup work. In the July 2018 Task Force report, the Agency reported that it had determined to no longer implement this recommendation as written. However, EPA is continuing to improve the financial assurance program, which will include updating EPA’s 2015 CERCLA financial assurance guidance to address high risk situations and to ensure national, consistent implementation of financial assurance. EPA is also evaluating the effectiveness of the financial test and corporate guarantee.
Recommendation 18: Reinforce the Federal Facility Agreement Informal and Formal Dispute Timelines
- Issued Principles to Clarify and for Reinforce Adherence to Federal Facility Agreement Informal and Formal Dispute Timelines
In September 2018, EPA issued a memorandum titled “Principles for Reinforcing Federal Facility Agreement Informal and Formal Dispute Timeline.” The pace of cleanup at federal facility Superfund sites can be delayed when Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) parties continue disputes beyond the agreed-upon dispute resolution timelines specified in negotiated FFAs. However, because disagreements and disputes are fact-specific, a fluid rather than a one-size-fits-all process may at times be necessary. The memorandum sets out principles outlining the key themes for FFA parties to reinforce dispute timelines.
- Tools to Reinforce Adherence to Informal and Formal Dispute Timelines
EPA created two tools: include an informal dispute tracking spreadsheet, which will supplement existing EPA Headquarters tracking of formal disputes, and an audit tool that captures postponed cleanup milestones.
Principles for Reinforcing FFA Informal and Formal Dispute Timelines Memo (PDF)(4 pp, 3 MB)
Recommendation 19: Expand Cleanup Capacity by Designating One Agency Lead for Each Project in Order to Reduce Overlap and Duplication
- Issued Internal Memorandum for Federal Agency Efficiencies at Mixed Ownership Mining Sites
In November 2018, EPA issued an internal memorandum describing the ability of, and the circumstances under which to consider, a redelegation of CERCLA enforcement and cleanup authorities at mixed ownership mining sites from one federal agency to another pursuant to Executive Order 12580. At appropriate sites, this redelegation can increase federal agency related efficiencies by consolidating CERCLA authority to just one agency, instead of two.
- Issued Sample MOUs for State-Related Efficiencies
November 2018, EPA issued a sample Clean Water Act (CWA)/CERCLA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to memorialize intended steps for regional and state coordination and cooperation at contaminated sediment sites.
In July 2019, EPA issued a model MOU for a PRP-lead Superfund cleanup to guide EPA regional offices through the complex requirements that arise when oversight responsibility is assumed by a state under the state’s cleanup law. Simultaneously, EPA researched and received input from EPA regional offices and states on EPA-state cooperative efforts, work planning, and coordination at Superfund sites. EPA issued a memorandum to accompany the MOU that highlights a collection of ways EPA Regions are effectively including states in the Superfund response process and furthering EPA regional and state coordination.
Sample CWA/CERCLA Memorandum of Understanding for the Regions, States, Tribes, and Other Federal Agencies
Transmittal of Model Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Oversight and Enforcement of Remaining Response Actions Under State Law at Post-Enforcement Superfund Sites
Environmental Protection Agency and State Cooperative Efforts at Superfund Sites
Recommendation 20: Identify Opportunities to Engage Independent Third Parties to Oversee Certain Aspects of PRP Lead Cleanups
- Memorandum Issued on Findings and Recommendations on Third Party Oversight of Aspects of PRP-Lead Cleanups
In November 2018, following a thorough and exhaustive review of opportunities for independent third parties to oversee cleanups by PRPs at National Priorities List (NPL) sites, EPA issued the Superfund Task Force Recommendation 20 memorandum, which concluded that EPA has a number of policy-based tools and approaches for oversight of PRP cleanups that may help achieve the goals set by this recommendation and the Task Force, including the use of: independent quality assurance teams for the oversight of PRPs; independent third-party verification or certification; and certain advanced monitoring technologies to support long-term stewardship.
- Advance Monitoring Technologies to Support Long-Term Stewardship
In July 2018, EPA issued a new memorandum titled “Advance Monitoring Technologies and Approaches to Support Long-Term Stewardship.” The memorandum provides the Regions with information on the potential use of advance monitoring technologies and approaches for monitoring and maintaining institutional and engineering controls at sites and facilities addressed under federal and state cleanup authorities.
Memorandum: Superfund Task Force Recommendation 20 (Identify Opportunities to Engage Independent Third Parties to Oversee Certain Aspects of PRP-Lead Cleanups): Workgroup Findings and Recommendations (PDF) (8 pp, 9.5 MB)
Use of Advance Monitoring Technologies and Approaches to Support Long-Term Stewardship Memo
Recommendation 21: Facilitate Site Redevelopment During Cleanup by Encouraging PRPs to Fully Integrate and Implement Reuse Opportunities into Investigations and Cleanups of NPL Sites
- Issued Internal Memo to Encourage PRPs to Incorporate Reuse Early in the Decision-Making Process
The Task Force drafted an internal memorandum, which (1) discussed why PRPs may or may not pursue reuse; (2) presented an overview of the current NPL reuse landscape; and (3) provided recommendations the Agency may want to implement to encourage PRPs to incorporate reuse earlier in the decision-making process. This memorandum was the culmination of the Task Force's actions under this recommendation which included: developing a list of case studies where PRPs have incorporated reuse considerations throughout the cleanup process, working with EPA Regions to identify examples of effective PRP-driven reuse efforts and previously successful incentives, interviewing PRPs and developers to identify opportunities for PRP-led cleanups and reuse, hosting a public listening session to inform stakeholders of the workgroup’s progress and to solicit input and analyzing site cleanup and reuse data, including 52 case-studies and 19 interviews.
Listening Sessions – Superfund Task Force Recommendation 21
Goal 3: Encouraging Private Investment
The Task Force employed four strategies to encourage private investment:
- Use alternative and non-traditional approaches for financing site cleanups
- Streamline the process for comfort letters and settlement agreements with third parties
- Optimize tools and realign incentives to encourage third-party investment
- Address liability concerns of local governments
To learn how EPA will integrate the work completed under the Task Force into the Superfund Program, see:
You may need a PDF reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA’s About PDF page to learn more.
Recommendation 22: Explore Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) Approaches and Other Risk Management Tools at PRP cleanups
- Memorandum on use of “look-first” approach to CERCLA settlement agreements
On January 16, 2020, EPA issued the "Use of the “Look-First” Approach in Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act Settlement Agreements Involving Third Parties" to address the use of a "look-first" provision in settlement agreements under CERCLA involving potentially responsible parties, the government, and a third-party who agrees to perform cleanup work at a site.
- External Stakeholder Outreach on Environmental Liability Transfer and “Look First” Provisions in Superfund Settlements
Over the past two years, EPA reached out to external stakeholders and received feedback on various business models, products, and the current industry climate for the transfer of cleanup responsibility to analyze the benefits, challenges, and other considerations associated with financial risk management tools. In June 2018 and June 2019, EPA held public listening sessions on (1) alternative and non-traditional approaches for financing and performing Superfund site cleanups to accelerate site redevelopment and reuse, and (2) to raise awareness of the Agency’s use of “look first” provisions in Superfund settlements involving third parties that assume cleanup responsibilities. EPA is in the process of analyzing the remarks received from the June 2019 listening session. After completing the review, EPA plans to draft a memorandum for EPA Regions on the use of the “look first” approach in CERCLA settlement agreements.
Use of the “Look-First” Approach in Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act Settlement Agreements Involving Third Parties
Listening Sessions – Superfund Task Force Recommendation 22
Recommendation 23: Ensure Timely Use of Site-Specific Tools When Needed and Appropriate to Address Liability Concerns at Contaminated Sites
- Developed an Internal Prospective Purchaser Inquiry Tool
EPA developed the Prospective Purchaser Inquiry Tool (“PPI Tool”) to help EPA regional staff ask the right questions and use the right models to efficiently and effectively respond to questions from developers and other third parties interested in acquiring potentially contaminated property. Additionally, the Agency held a public listening session in June 2018 on the recommendation to gain insight and feedback from stakeholders.
Listening Sessions – Superfund Task Force Recommendation 23
Recommendation 24: Create and Maintain an OECA Information Repository to Provide Access to Enforcement Information and Tools to Support Third-Party Cleanup and Reuse
- Created Repository of Enforcement Tools and Revised Enforcement Website
EPA established a special collection of comfort/status letters and other enforcement tools in SEMS that EPA staff can access when needed. Additionally, EPA has completed extensive revisions to its enforcement website to inform and facilitate third-party cleanup and reuse. EPA also has created an intranet site to provide EPA staff with general information on comfort status/letters, sample comfort/status letters, and information on the SEMS special collection of comfort/status letters and other enforcement tools.
Superfund Enforcement web content
"Addressing Liability Concerns to Support Cleanup and Reuse of Contaminated Lands"
Recommendation 25: Update EPA’s Position on the Use of Site-Specific Agreements with Third Parties at NPL Sites
- Encouraging More Frequent Consideration of Third-Parties to Foster Cleanup and Reuse at NPL Sites
In April 2018, EPA and DOJ issued a new policy memorandum titled, “Agreements with Third Parties to Support Cleanup and Reuse at Sites on the Superfund National Priorities List.” The memorandum encourages more frequent consideration of Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser Agreements (BFPPs) and Prospective Purchaser Agreements (PPAs), when appropriate, to foster cleanup and reuse of NPL sites.
Agreements with Third Parties to Support Cleanup and Reuse at Sites on the Superfund National Priorities List
Recommendation 26: Revise EPA’s Model Agreements to Create More Opportunities for Settlement with Third Parties Interested in Cleaning Up and Reusing NPL Sites
- Internal Cleanup and Reuse Case Tracking System
EPA reinstituted its internal cleanup and reuse case tracking system to monitor site-specific progress and identify timely steps to resolve a party’s liability using EPA’s liability tools. In addition, EPA conducted outreach to Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers and other third parties to discuss ongoing liability concerns and potential new approaches to facilitate cleanup and reuse of contaminated properties. Based on this outreach and lessons learned from site-specific agreements, the Agency has identified potential revisions to the current model prospective purchaser and Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser agreements.
Recommendation 27: Identify Tools for Third Parties Interested in Investment or Other Opportunities Supporting the Cleanup or Reuse of NPL Sites
- Held Public Listening Session and Meeting with External Stakeholder
EPA conducted extensive outreach to a variety of stakeholders involved in the cleanup and redevelopment of Superfund sites. The Agency reached out to lenders, investors, purchasers, and other third parties to discuss ongoing liability concerns and the potential for new approaches to facilitate cleanup and reuse. Through these comprehensive efforts, EPA identified revisions to the model comfort/status letters under Recommendation 28 and changes to the Common Elements guidance under Recommendation 29.
Listening Sessions – Superfund Task Force Recommendation 27
Recommendation 28: Provide Greater “Comfort” in Comfort/Status Letters
- Revised 2015 Comfort/Status Letter Policy and Model Letters to Provide Greater Comfort
In July 2019, EPA issued the “Transmittal Memorandum and 2019 Policy on the Issuance of Superfund Comfort/Status Letters,” which addresses communication with parties interested in reuse or redevelopment of impacted properties. The policy includes model language that assists EPA regional staff when drafting site-specific letters. The Agency held a public listening session on the proposed guidance in June 2018.
Transmittal Memorandum and 2019 Policy on the Issuance of Superfund Comfort/Status Letters
Listening Sessions – Superfund Task Force Recommendation 28
Recommendation 29: Revise or Develop New Enforcement Guidance to Support the Cleanup and Reuse of Contaminated Sites
- Common Elements Guidance
In July 2019, EPA issued the “Enforcement Discretion Guidance Regarding Statutory Criteria for Those Who May Quality as CERCLA Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers, Contiguous Property Owners, or Innocent Landowners,” commonly referred to as the “Common Elements Guidance.” The 2019 guidance updates a 2003 Common Elements Guidance and reflects the work of a national workgroup and feedback from external stakeholders. The 2019 guidance includes major revisions to sections covering requirements to take “reasonable steps” with respect to hazardous substance releases and to comply with land use restrictions and not impede the effectiveness or integrity of institutional controls. The Guidance also includes a new section on the requirement that Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers and innocent landowners not dispose of hazardous substances after purchasing property.
Enforcement Discretion Guidance Regarding Statutory Criteria for Those Who May Quality as CERCLA Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers, Contiguous Property Owners, or Innocent Landowners (“Common Elements”)
Listening Sessions – Superfund Task Force Recommendation 29
Recommendation 30: Revise Federal Facility Enforcement Guidance
- Revised Policy Towards Landowners and Transferees of Federal Facilities
In May 2019, EPA issued a revision of the 1997 “Policy Towards Landowners and Transferees of Federal Facilities” to encourage redevelopment and reuse at federal facilities on the NPL. The revised policy supports the use of tools such as comfort letters and other agreements to address potential liability concerns of landowners and transferees who acquire federal property and aims to alleviate uncertainty regarding potential enforcement by the Agency for contamination existing as of the date of property acquisition.
- Developed Model Language for Amending Federal Facility Agreements to Encourage Reuse and Redevelopment
In July 2019, EPA transmitted to EPA regional offices model language for amending FFAs to encourage reuse and redevelopment at NPL federal facilities. The proposed language would place federal facility agreement provisions on hold in instances where a third party, rather than the federal entity, wants to do the cleanup. EPA developed two amendment options. In Option 1, EPA independently selects the remedy. In Option 2, the federal agency participates in remedy selection.
Transmittal of Revised Policy Toward Landowners and Transferees of Federal Facilities to Encourage Cleanup and Reuse at Federal Facilities on the National Priorities List (NPL)
Federal Facility Agreement Amendment Option 1
Federal Facility Agreement Amendment Option 2
Recommendation 31: Develop New Local Government Enforcement Guidance to Address Concerns Raised by the Landowner Liability Provisions Potentially Applicable to Local Governments
- Revising Fact Sheet to Address Local Government Potential Liability Concerns
On June 11, 2020, the EPA issued the "Superfund Liability Protections for Local Government Acquisitions after the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2018" to address potential CERCLA liability concerns of local governments related to contaminated property acquisitions. The guidance focuses on CERCLA § 101(20)(D) as amended by the BUILD Act and also provides an overview of CERCLA’s liability framework and other protections that may apply to local government acquisitions of contaminated property. Through this guidance, the EPA is clarifying its enforcement intentions by describing circumstances when it may exercise its discretion to not pursue CERCLA enforcement actions against local governments that may fall within a category of liable parties under Section 107 of CERCLA. The guidance supersedes the 2011 factsheet titled "CERCLA Liability and Local Government Acquisitions and Other Activities."
Superfund Liability Protections for Local Government Acquisitions after the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2018
Recommendation 32: Develop a Model Comfort/Status Letter and Other Tools to Address the Liability Concerns and Other Barriers Unique to Local Governments
- Developing Model Comfort/Status Letter for Local Governments Acquiring Contaminated Properties
EPA is drafting a local government-specific model comfort/status letter as a site-specific tool to facilitate and support local governments in the acquisition of contaminated properties. EPA expects the model comfort/status letter to be issued in 2020.
Goal 4: Promoting Redevelopment and Community Revitalization
The Task Force employed two strategies to encourage site redevelopment and community revitalization:
- Facilitate site redevelopment and support ongoing information sharing
- Utilize reuse planning to lay the foundation and set expectations for site redevelopment
Recommendation 33: Focus Redevelopment Efforts on 20 NPL Sites with Redevelopment Potential and Identify 20 Sites with Greatest Potential Reuse
- Released Superfund Redevelopment Focus List
In January 2018 EPA released the Redevelopment Focus List of 31 NPL sites with the greatest expected redevelopment and commercial potential. EPA developed this list to promote renewed focus on accelerating Superfund site progress while working to successfully return sites to productive use in communities across the country. Since the list’s release and to publicize site information, EPA has provided training, tools, and resources, including more than 100 new or updated case studies, fact sheets, reports, and online materials about these 31 sites and other regionally identified priority sites. EPA used the lessons learned from these Focus List efforts to expand support to more sites and to broader redevelopment opportunities. As a result, EPA developed an interactive tool (story map) that highlights Superfund Redevelopment Opportunity sites and helps promote these sites’ revitalization.
Redevelopment Focus Site list
Superfund Redevelopment Opportunity Sites Story Map
Recommendation 34: Publicize Site-Specific Information to Promote Community Revitalization
- Developed Site-Specific Information for Reuse-Ready Sites
EPA reorganized the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative website to reflect Task Force activities and to consolidate information about reuse opportunities into one easily accessible web area, “Promoting Redevelopment.” The Agency developed more than 100 new or updated case studies, fact sheets, reports, and online materials to provide site owners, future site users, prospective purchasers, lenders, and developers with site-specific information pertaining to both Superfund cleanup and real estate-oriented perspectives.
EPA developed a prototype Superfund redevelopment interactive map designed to show site information, to outline reuse status and potential, and to provide links to relevant resources. With the map, EPA will communicate timely site information to real estate and land use decision-makers by making Superfund sites and related property assets visible and accessible in a manner akin to a real estate portfolio.
Superfund Redevelopment Initiative Website
- Promoted Reuse at Sitewide Ready for Reuse Sites
Sites that have achieved the Agency’s Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use measure are particularly relevant to those interested in reusing Superfund sites or identifying sites that may be able to support additional uses. EPA ensured that Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use performance measure information is up-to-date and readily accessible on the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative website and expanded the list of confirmed Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use sites to include site reuse status.
Information on Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use
Recommendation 35: Build Capacity of EPA and its Stakeholders on the Broad Community and Economic Development Context for Site Remediation and Redevelopment
- Provided Redevelopment Training and Information for EPA and Its Stakeholders
To build internal and external capacity to facilitate Superfund redevelopment, the Task Force conducted seven training webinars for EPA staff and three public webinars. Additionally the Task Force provided training sessions or shared information on reuse at conferences like the 25th National Association of Remedial Project Manager Conference, the 2017 National Brownfields Conference, the 2018 Wildlife Habitat Council's Conservation Conference, and the 2018 EPA Community Involvement Training Program. Internal events trained EPA staff in engaging industries, businesses and developers regarding redevelopment at all types of EPA cleanup program sites, and ensured EPA staff have the tools and strategies they need to work with communities on reasonable future land use determinations critical to selecting and implementing remedies that support reuse.
Superfund Redevelopment Webinars
Recommendation 36: Engage Superfund Communities in Cleanup and Redevelopment
- Developed New Case Studies, Fact Sheets, Reports, and Online Materials
EPA worked to engage communities affected by cleanup and redevelopment activities by delivering relevant training and providing information on the Superfund and Brownfield processes. The Task Force developed more than 100 new or updated case studies, fact sheets, reports, and online materials. Case studies and fact sheets explore Superfund reuse stories and document successful redevelopment strategies, acknowledge reuse barriers, and explain community approaches that overcame barriers to new reuse outcomes. The Task Force also collected and published national economic data for FY 2017 and FY 2018 to give an overview of Superfund Redevelopment’s national beneficial effects.
Superfund Redevelopment Website
Superfund Redevelopment Fact Sheets
Superfund Redevelopment In-depth Case Studies
Economic Benefits of Superfund Redevelopment
Recommendation 37: Recognize and Replicate Local Site Redevelopment Successes
- Awarded Site Reuse Awards
EPA focused on awarding more site reuse awards across the regions to recognize redevelopment success and to promote and replicate these successes. EPA developed a ‘how-to’ guide for EPA staff on planning and issuing site reuse awards. EPA presented State Excellence in Supporting Reuse awards to three state agencies in 2017 and three in 2018. Additionally, EPA presented site-specific awards at 12 sites to more than 100 recipients, recognizing community members, local governments, developers, and others for their contributions to site redevelopment successes.
Site Reuse Awards
Site Reuse Award Guide for EPA Staff (PDF)(20 pp, 9.1 MB)
Recommendation 38: Support Community Visioning, Revitalization, and Redevelopment of Superfund Sites
- Provided Support and Technical Assistance to Communities Interested in Redevelopment
As part of the Task Force, EPA focused on providing direct support to communities interested in Superfund redevelopment and ensuring communities have the information they need to plan for site redevelopment. EPA provided technical assistance to more than 30 communities in all 10 EPA regions through regional seed projects and ongoing regionally funded support. Additionally EPA developed technical reuse reports for stakeholder use, finalized a ready for reuse determination for one site, and assembled a redevelopment team of EPA experts available to help advise businesses, developers and stakeholders when needed.
Regional Seed Projects and Technical Reuse Reports
Ready for Reuse Determinations at Superfund Sites
Recommendation 39: Engage and Facilitate Public/Private Partnerships to Share Information, Resources, and Work Toward Advancing and Promoting the Revitalization of the Site.
- Provided Technical Assistance to Promote Revitalization of Sites
As noted in Recommendation 38, EPA provided technical assistance to more than 30 communities in all 10 EPA regions through regional seed projects and ongoing regionally-funded support. These regional seed projects provide EPA with the opportunity for interactions with a wide range of stakeholders, including property owners, developers, local government officials, state agencies, school districts, community groups, tribes, other federal agencies such as the U. S. Department of Agriculture, development agencies, and other entities.
Goal 5: Engaging Partners and Stakeholders
The Task Force employed one strategy to engage partners and stakeholders:
- Engage key stakeholders
Recommendation 40: Develop a Robust Communications Strategy to Identify and Target Key Stakeholders
- Developed Risk Communication Improvement Plan
EPA refined the goal of Recommendation 40 to focus on improving risk communication with communities and stakeholders at Superfund sites, particularly at locations where waste has been left in place and the site requires long-term operation and maintenance and institutional controls (Long-Term Stewardship). EPA has initially focused risk communication evaluations at long-term stewardship sites but expects that the evaluation findings and lessons learned will be directly applicable to all phases of the Superfund cleanup process. By promoting clear and effective risk communications throughout the remedial process, EPA can help communities develop a shared vision for reuse of the site and potentially speed up the cleanup process.
Getting Risk Communication Right: Helping Communities Plan at Superfund Sites (PDF) (15 pp, 2.7 MB)
Recommendation 41: For Federal Facility Sites, Collaborate with Other Federal Agencies (OFAs) to Solicit Their Views on How EPA Can Better Engage Federal Agencies
- Enhanced Engagement with Other Federal Agencies
To examine what was working well, EPA compiled a baseline list of the ways it engages with other federal agencies and states at both the headquarters and regional levels. EPA incorporated feedback on this effort and shared the feedback with states and other federal agencies. EPA prepared and piloted a headquarters-to-headquarters engagement plan with the Department of Defense (DOD) and requested ideas to further refine the plan. EPA has regularly-scheduled meetings with other federal agencies and states and has improved these meetings in terms of focus, purpose and construction through this recommendation. For example, EPA used executive-level meetings with DOD to target and resolve critical programmatic issues and site-specific issues at sites like Picatinny Army Arsenal Superfund Site in New Jersey and Hill Air Force Base Superfund Site in Utah.
Recommendation 42: Use a Federal Advisory Committee to Work with a Broad Array of Stakeholders to Identify Barriers and Opportunities Related to Cleanup and Reuse of Superfund Sites
- National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Delivered Draft Recommendations
The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) was selected to deliver recommendations in response to Recommendation 42. EPA and NEJAC members developed the charge for Recommendation 42 in two phases: (1) establish the NEJAC Superfund working group and (2) propose guiding principles and recommendations for the final Task Force report. The NEJAC Superfund working group, comprised of a diverse array of contamination, remediation, and revitalization experts from across the country, proposed guiding principles and recommendations. Guiding principles include: proposed working group recommendations should link to potential actions; the Superfund Program should recognize that impacted communities often have unique concerns; development of trust, adaptation of tools, equitability of engagement and assistance, and clear communication about the Superfund process should all be considered when EPA is working with impacted communities; community end-use goals should be considered from the earliest stages of the process; and Superfund should enable impacted communities to plan for site reuse and community revitalization during the site remediation process.
From the proposed guiding principles, the working group developed a series of draft recommendations. Some examples include: expand Superfund’s role beyond cleanup to community asset creation; increase grant resources for reuse planning assistance and community engagement; and expand use of health impact assessments as a planning tool.
The working group recognized the importance of a longer deliberative process to be completed during the second phase of its work and will continue to develop recommendations in accordance with EPA's charge.