Frequent Questions

How does EPA decide whether a site is safe?

Once a potentially hazardous waste site is reported to EPA, trained inspectors from EPA, the state, or tribal government perform a Preliminary Assessment (PA).  During this short inspection, EPA tries to determine whether the site presents a hazard to human health and the environment.  Often a more detailed review of the site, a Site Inspection (SI), is required.  The SI enables EPA to gather data to score the site according to the Hazard Ranking System (HRS), which in turn determines if the site should be added to the National Priorities List (NPL). Only sites on the NPL can be cleaned up using the Superfund Trust Fund.

At any time during the site assessment process EPA may decide that the site poses an immediate threat to human health.  In these cases EPA will conduct a removal action and eliminate the hazard.  EPA, the state or tribal government will perform a risk assessment at all NPL sites to determine the risk a site poses to human health and the environment.  If an unacceptable risk exists, EPA will select a remedy that makes the site safe. 

To learn more, please see the Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection Web page.

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