The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that one in four Americans lives within 3 miles of a contaminated site, many of which pose serious risks to human health and the environment.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 authorizes EPA and other federal agencies to respond to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances and created a trust fund to provide for certain cleanup activities. EPA regulates facilities that may cause contamination and oversees the cleanup of the nation's most seriously contaminated sites under a variety of programs. Similarly, the Department of Defense (DOD) addresses hazards at thousands of contaminated areas on active and former military installations.
EPA's National Priorities List includes over a thousand of the nation's most seriously contaminated hazardous release sites, many of which pose unacceptable human exposure or unknown human exposure risks. In addition, former defense sites can pose hazards such as unsafe buildings, a variety of toxic and radioactive wastes, and ordnance and explosive compounds. DOD is obligated to ensure that former defense sites are cleaned up to a level that is protective of human health and the environment. DOD has identified over 4,000 formerly used defense sites, which were closed before October 2006, and over 5,000 sites identified by several Base Realignment and Closure commissions that require cleanup.