US Army Corps of Engineers
Louisville District

CERCLA Process

What is CERCLA? 

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was passed in December 1980 in response to the discovery in the late 1970s of a large number of abandoned, leaking hazardous waste sites that posed a serious threat to both human health and the environment. CERLCA was designed to impose clean up and reporting requirements on the private sector, as well as federal facilities, by:

Identifying those sites where releases of hazardous substances had occurred or might occur, and pose a serious threat to human health and the environment;

  • Taking appropriate action to remedy those releases; and

  • Seeking those parties responsible for the environmental hazards to pay for the clean up activities.

What Does CERCLA Do?

CERCLA authorizes clean up responses when there is a release or threat of a hazardous substance into the environment, and sets a framework for accomplishing those actions. Two types of response actions are authorized:
Removal actions are undertaken to immediately stop, prevent, minimize, stabilize mitigate or eliminate the release or threatened release of contaminant to the environment.

Remedial actions provide a more permanent solution to hazardous substance threats and generally involves more extensive study and actions.

What is the Community Right-to-Know Act?

The Right-to-Know Act creates emergency planning, reporting, and notification requirements intended to protect the public in the event of a release of a hazardous substance. Facilities are required to report the presence of hazardous chemical substances in addition to those listed as extremely hazardous.

The Right-to-Know act also includes a system of administrative, civil, and criminal penalties to enforce notification requirements imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.