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Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

The objective of CERCLA is to clean up uncontrolled releases of specified hazardous substances.

Summary of CERCLA

Agriculture-Specific Requirements

More Information

Related topics
Emergency Planning and Response

Related publications from the Ag Center
Emergency Planning and Response

Text of law and related regulations
Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act Overview
CERCLA (Superfund) Law Overview
40 CFR Part 300 
40 CFR Part 302 
CERCLA (Superfund) Policies and Guidance

More information from EPA 
National Contingency Plan
Superfund Emergency Response Program
Superfund Risk Assessment

More information from states
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Exit EPA
EZregs Exit EPA - University of Illinois Extension Web site that identifies environmental regulations that pertain to specific agricultural and horticultural operations and practices in Illinois.

CERCLA enforcement
CERCLA: Agriculture-Related Enforcement Cases
Superfund (CERCLA) Enforcement Program
Superfund (CERCLA) Enforcement Documents


Overview of CERCLA

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), a 1980 law commonly known as Superfund, authorizes EPA to respond to releases, or threatened releases, of hazardous substances that may endanger public health, welfare, or the environment. CERCLA also enables EPA to force parties responsible for environmental contamination to clean it up or to reimburse the Superfund for response or remediation costs incurred by EPA. The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 revised various sections of CERCLA, extended the taxing authority for the Superfund, and created a free-standing law, SARA Title III, also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

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Hazardous Substance Release Reporting Regulations

Hazardous substance release reporting regulations (40 CFR Part 302) direct the person in charge of a facility to report to the National Response Center (NRC) any environmental release of a hazardous substance which exceeds a reportable quantity. Reportable quantities are defined and listed in 40 CFR Section 302.4. A release report may trigger a response by EPA, or by one or more federal or state emergency response authorities.

Planning and Agriculture
Agricultural establishments or other agribusinesses should work with their local emergency planning committee (LEPC) to ensure that the LEPC has enough information to respond if a local emergency occurs. Notification under EPCRA may also be required.

Release Reporting and Agriculture
Any person in charge of a "facility" (e.g., an agricultural establishment or agribusiness) must notify EPA's National Response Center of any non-permitted releases of any CERCLA hazardous substances above threshold amounts. Releases could be to any environmental media including atmosphere, soil, surface water, or groundwater. This requirement does not apply to the normal application of a pesticide product registered under FIFRA or to the proper handling and storage of such a product by an agricultural producer.

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Hazardous Substance Responses

EPA implements hazardous substance responses according to procedures outlined in the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) (40 CFR Part 300). The NCP includes provisions for permanent cleanups, known as remedial actions, and other cleanups referred to as "removals." EPA generally takes remedial actions only at sites on the National Priorities List (NPL), which currently includes approximately 1,300 sites. Both EPA and states can act at other sites; however, EPA gives responsible parties the opportunity to conduct removal and remedial actions and encourages community involvement throughout the Superfund response process.

Release Response and Agriculture
EPA can require agricultural establishments and other agribusinesses to conduct response actions to address actual or threatened releases of CERCLA hazardous substances. Responsible persons can include both current or previous owners of the agricultural establishment, or "persons" who arranged to have their substances disposed of on the agricultural establishment.

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