(NEXSTAR) – More than 1,300 sites around the country are suspected of being so contaminated, hazardous or polluted – or are at risk of becoming so polluted – that they have been deemed a national cleanup priority.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies places around the country that pose a risk to people’s health because they have been contaminated by hazardous waste.
Since 1980, the agency has taken charge of cleaning up those sites under a law with the nickname “Superfund.” (Its full name is The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA.)
Superfund sites include poorly managed landfills, mining areas, or industrial facilities.
As of June 27, when the National Priorities List was last updated, there were 1,336 sites, plus an additional 40 sites that were proposed as new additions. “It is a list of the worst hazardous waste sites identified by Superfund,” the EPA explains.
As part of its effort to inform the public on potential threats and hazards in their area, the EPA maps out every site on an interactive map. Zooming in on the map (below) allows you to see more information about the Superfund sites in your neighborhood, city or state.
Clicking on a site opens a pop-up window with more information, including the site’s Hazard Ranking System score. That score represents how likely a site is to release harmful substances into the surrounding environment, how toxic the waste on site is, and how many people are (or could be) impacted by the pollution, among other factors. The highest possible score is 100.
Clicking on a site’s name also gives you more information on why a site ended up on the National Priorities List. For example, clicking around California’s Silicon Valley shows areas where semiconductor manufacturers contaminated groundwater below their buildings. In Oklahoma, an oil refinery polluted the surrounding soil and water. In Alabama, a company producing pesticides had been disposing of waste in open pits. Those chemicals ended up flowing into nearby rivers and wetlands.
See the Superfund sites in your area on the map below:
Once a site is put on the National Priorities List, the EPA investigates the dangers posed to human health and pursues the best way of cleaning up the problem. The EPA may force the person or company responsible for the pollution to finance the cleanup, or it may take charge of cleanup if no party can be found responsible.
Once a site is fully cleaned up and the EPA determines there’s no further risk to people’s health or the surrounding environment, it can be deleted from the list. The site can then be redeveloped into something new.