The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, referred to as CERCLA and commonly known as Superfund, is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, Superfund allows the EPA to clean up contaminated sites. It requires the parties responsible for the contamination to either perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work.
The Louisville District lends a helping hand to this important effort.
“Superfund started in 1980 when Congress passed CERCLA; at sites where EPA can’t find a viable party responsible for the contamination, EPA performs the cleanup using the federal Superfund created by CERCLA,” said Josh Van Bogaert, Louisville District EPA Superfund program manager.
The Jacobsville neighborhood in Evansville, Indiana, is one of these sites the Louisville District, along with the EPA, is cleaning up under Superfund, Van Bogaert said.
Airborne dust, soot and smoke from manufacturing companies that once occupied the current Jacobsville neighborhood, contaminated the soil with lead and arsenic through industrial operations in the late 1800s, according to the EPA and Van Bogaert.
About 4,000 residential properties require clean up.
“EPA has already remediated about half of those,” Van Bogaert said. “They have asked the Corps to remediate the remaining 2,000.”
The work plans are all complete. The contractor mobilized in January to start conducting sampling and pre-coordination with the home owners. They have to walk through the plan for excavating in the residents’ yards and work out whether they need to remove or temporarily relocate things from the properties. This coordination has started. A full-time construction division engineer, Marc Hodges, is on site, coordinating with local officials, meeting with the public, and managing the contractor.
“Having Hodges in Evansville, dedicated to the project, living with the community, and being available to listen to their concerns, has been crucial to the early success of the project,” Van Bogaert explained.
According to Van Bogaert, the Corps began remediating properties in April of this year.
“The project is estimated to be a $50 million effort over the next five years for 2,000 properties and will take five construction seasons – through the summer of 2023 – to complete,” Van Bogaert said.
“Our role is to conduct the remediation. EPA does the investigation, designs the remedies – using separate contractors, then they come to the Corps to execute the field remediation,” Van Bogaert said. “We (Corps) are the people in the field.”
The EPA Superfund program here in Louisville is smaller than some of the other districts; however, the Louisville District program is growing.
“This is the biggest project we’ve ever had with EPA Superfund,” Van Bogaert said. “We’re hoping to use this to grow our relationship with the EPA and work together with them in the future on other Superfund sites.”
“We’re in the very early phases of this project. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re in the right spot to succeed,” Van Bogaert said. “We have a good contractor who is engaged. We have excellent team members in engineering, construction and contracting working together in concert. We will clean up these yards and make it a safer place to live.” USACE Louisville District team members include Marc Hodges, Robin Sternberg, Dick Kennard, Matt Riley, Justin Bennett, Aaron Sanford, Tammi Jeffries, and Josh Van Bogaert.
Superfund’s goals are to protect human health and the environment by cleaning up contaminated sites; make responsible parties pay for cleanup work; involve communities in the Superfund process; and return Superfund sites to productive use.
For more information about Superfund, visit https://www.epa.gov/superfund/what-superfund.