What is Superfund?

Superfund is the federal government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

Following the discovery of toxic waste dumps in the 1970s, the federal government enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, also referred to as Superfund, to enable cleanup of toxic sites and reduce human exposures to toxic substances. The CERCLA statute authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up toxic sites and to engage responsible parties in site cleanups. When the responsible party is absent or unable to pay, the CERCLA funds are used to reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups.1The environmental and public health emergencies that emerged from locations such as Love Canal, NY, Times Beach, MO, and Warren County, NC were important catalysts for the Superfund program.1 The discovery of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites near communities revealed the threat that historic and ongoing contamination can have on local residents. To find out more about the origin of Superfund, read the EPA’s 1979 account of the Love Canal tragedy. Love Canal was the first location in the United States to be designated a Superfund site.
One in four Americans lives within four miles of a hazardous waste site.2
Find Superfund sites in North Carolina.

What is the Superfund National Priorities List?

The National Priorities List (NPL) is the list of the nation’s most hazardous waste sites.3

The NPL is intended primarily to guide the EPA in determining which sites warrant further investigation and which courses of action will be most appropriate to remediate the site for safe future use. NPL sites can be removed from the national listing after all appropriate responses have occurred and the site no longer poses a significant threat to public health or the environment.4

Learn more about the National Priorities List.

What is the Superfund Research Program?

The Superfund Research Program (SRP) is a network of university grants that are created for faculty, students, and researchers to seek solutions to the complex health and environmental issues associated with the nation’s hazardous waste sites.5

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosts a Superfund Research Program that comprises six integrated research projects (four biomedical and two non-biomedical) and five support cores, including two research support cores, a training core, a research translation core, and an administrative core. UNC SRP advances the scientific bases required to understand and reduce risks to human health associated with several of the highest priority chemicals regulated under the Superfund program, namely polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and chlorinated hydrocarbons.6

Visit the University of North Carolina’s Superfund Research Program.


  1. US Environmental Protection Agency. (2011, August). Basic information. Superfund. Retrieved from
  2. Phifer, R. (2010, November). RCRA- The first 30 years of hazardous waste regulation. Journal of Chemical Health and Safety. Retrieved from
  3. US Environmental Protection Agency. (2011, August). National Priorities List (NPL). National Priorities List. Retrieved from
  4. US Environmental Protection Agency. (2011, August). How sites are deleted from the NPL. Superfund. Retrieved from
  5. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2011, August). Superfund Research Program. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from
  6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2010, October). UNC-CH Superfund Research Program. Superfund Research Program. Retrieved from