The name Superfund referred originally to the remediation trust fund established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). CERCLA was passed on December 11, 1980, in the last few weeks of Jimmy Carter's presidential administration, by a lame-duck Congress. The phrase “Superfund sites” refers to those containing hazardous material and abandoned by corporations or government entities. They include landfills, abandoned mines, old manufacturing sites, and even former military complexes. Often, as in the case of landfills, one site can have hundreds of “potentially responsible parties,” making a coordinated cleanup effort difficult. A single site can take years and hundreds of millions of dollars to remediate.

Superfund activities are often prominent topics in environmental journalism and for good reason. Nearly half of the U.S. ...

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