(NEXSTAR) – More than 1,100 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 Sept. 7, when the National Priorities List was last updated, there were 1,178 sites, plus an additional 39 sites that were proposed as new additions. “It is a list of the worst hazardous waste sites identified by Superfund,” the EPA explains.
North Carolina is home to 38 such sites. For example, there’s the Holcomb Creosote Company site, 80 acres of land in Yadkinville. It used to be a wood-treating facility until the government determined hazardous waste was contaminating the surrounding environment.
There’s also a site in Roxboro where two gas stations and an electronics are all suspected of creating a “contaminated groundwater plume” that extends to residences in the area.
Another problem area is a 1,000-acre piece of land near Asheville. The Chemtronics site used to house a plant manufacturing explosives and other chemicals, which the EPA says was mostly stopped by the mid-80s. But the damage had already been done, and mishandled waste leaked into the groundwater. Cleanup efforts here date back more than 30 years.
As part of its effort to inform the public on potential threats and hazards in their area, the EPA maps out every site on an interactive map. Zooming in on the map (below) allows you to see more information about the Superfund sites around North Carolina.
Clicking on a site’s name also 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:
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.
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.