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Highlights

This testimony summarizes the findings of our report on funding issues related to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund program. To protect human health and the environment from the effects of hazardous substances, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980, which established the Superfund program. Since 1980, EPA has identified more than 47,000 hazardous waste sites potentially requiring cleanup. As of the end of fiscal year 2009, 1,269 of the most seriously contaminated sites were included on EPA's National Priorities List (NPL): 1,111 nonfederal sites and 158 federal facilities. At the time of listing, EPA had determined that these sites posed relatively high risks to human health or the environment from releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, such as lead and polychlorinated biphenyl. These substances can cause a variety of health effects--such as birth defects, cancer, and developmental disorders--in people exposed to them. Of the nonfederal sites listed on the NPL at the end of fiscal year 2009, EPA identified 75 that have "unacceptable human exposure"--actual or reasonably expected exposure of an individual to hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants at levels that present an unacceptable risk--to contaminants for people living, recreating, and/or working in the surrounding areas. In addition, another 164 of the sites listed on the NPL at the end of fiscal year 2009 may potentially pose serious risks since EPA is in the process of determining if there is unacceptable human exposure at these sites.

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