(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.
Indiana has been home to 54 such sites, though many have since been deleted from the EPA’s list. Dozens remain, however, including two in Indianapolis: the Keystone Corridor Ground Water Contamination site and the Reilly Tar & Chemical site.
The Keystone Corridor contamination site, at the intersection of Keystone Avenue and East Fall Creek Parkway North Drive, stems from a longtime dry cleaning service, among other sources, that may have contributed to elevated levels of chlorinated solvents in the soil.
“The groundwater has been affected by an approximately 4,500 foot long by 1,500-foot wide plume (or underground mass) contaminated with chlorinated solvents,” the EPA writes.
Many cleanup goals have already been met, but efforts continue to shield residents from harmful contaminants, including the installation of “vapor mitigation systems” at commercial and residential properties.
The Reilly Tar & Chemical site, at 1500 S. Tibbs Ave., is on the list because of groundwater contamination (“benzene, pyridines and ammonia,” according to the EPA) possibly from the several businesses that operated on the site since 1905. In this site’s case, a “remedy” has already been implemented, but the EPA continues to conduct reviews every five years.
More Indiana Superfund sites and their statuses can be found at the EPA’s website.
As part of its effort to inform the public on potential threats and hazards in their area, the EPA also 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 or city.
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.
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.