Superfund Cleanup

What is a Superfund Site?

Superfund is the name given to the federal environmental program established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites.  It is also the name of the fund established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended (CERCLA statute, CERCLA overview).  This law was enacted by Congress in the wake of the discovery of toxic waste dumps such as Love Canal and Times Beach in the 1970s.  It allows the EPA to clean up such sites and to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups.  EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) in Washington, D.C. oversees the Superfund program, with regional input.

The Superfund cleanup process is complex.  It involves the steps taken to assess sites, place them on the National Priorities List, and establish and implement appropriate cleanup plans.  This is the long-term cleanup process.  In addition, the EPA has the authority to (1) conduct removal actions where immediate action needs to be taken, (2) enforce against potentially responsible parties, (3) ensure community involvement, (4) involve states, and (5) ensure long-term protectiveness.

The blueprint for these activities is the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Consistency Plan (NCP), a regulation applicable to all federal agencies involved in responding to hazardous substance releases.

The Central City/Clear Creek Superfund Site

The Central City/Clear Creek Superfund Site is located 30 miles west of Denver, in a study area that encompasses the Clear Creek watershed, which spans approximately 400 square miles.  Cleanup of this Superfund site is a major portion of the North Clear Creek Valley Project.

Plans include the creation of a Passive Treatment Plant for two polluted mine drainages, the National Tunnel and the Gregory Incline.  Seepage and stream flows from these historic mine sites carry toxic minerals and metals into North Clear Creek and other streams.   The EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will oversee permanent piping and passive treatment of National Tunnel drainage within the CDOT right-of-way.  A sulfate-reducing bioreactor and constructed wetlands will treat outflow before release into the stream.

Mine Waste Pile Capping & Sediment Control will also be included in the Superfund Cleanup Project. Salvage rock from CDOT SH 119 projects will cap numerous mine waste piles.  Without protective caps, rainfall and snowmelt causes minerals in the tailings piles to leach into the creek bed.