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Enforcement

Unique Parties and Superfund Liability

Some potentially responsible parties (PRPs) have circumstances that impact their liability due to either one or all of the following:

  • the small amount of waste that they contributed,
  • the limited hazard posed by the waste they contributed,
  • their status as municipalities, private homeowners, handlers of municipal solid waste, or owners of property above contaminated aquifers, and/or
  • their inability to pay for the cleanup.

The following is a general description of these liability categories and/or EPA's enforcement policies related to these parties.

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De Minimis Parties

These parties contribute a relatively small amount of wastes to a site, generally less than 1%. EPA wants to settle with them early, and focus efforts on major waste contributors. Policy documents are available from the de minimis/de micromis settlement procedures category within the Superfund cleanup policy and guidance database.

De Micromis Parties

These parties have contributed a miniscule amount of waste to the site, and EPA policy is that they should not participate in financing the cleanup. Policy documents are available from the de minimis/de micromis settlement procedures category within the Superfund cleanup policy and guidance database.

Inability to Pay Parties

EPA will make special payment arrangements and/or reduce the amount of payment for PRPs who can demonstrate an inability to pay the total amount of their liability for cleanup costs. Policy documents are available from the ability to pay category within the Superfund cleanup policy and guidance database. (Note: Sometimes the term "ability to pay" is used to mean "inability to pay.")

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Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)

EPA will generally not identify generators and transporters of municipal solid waste as PRPs at Superfund sites. Additional information on municipal solid waste is available from EPA's Interim Guidance on the Municipal Solid Waste Exemption under CERCLA § 107(p) (8/20/2003).

Municipalities

EPA has a presumptive settlement range for municipalities that are current or past owners and/or operators of co-disposal sites (sites with both municipal solid waste and hazardous substances) that want to settle their Superfund liability. Additional information on municipal liability is available from EPA's Interim Guidance on the Municipal Solid Waste Exemption under CERCLA § 107(p) (8/20/2003).

Owners of Property Above Contaminated Aquifers

Generally, if a hazardous substance came to a property by migrating through the groundwater from a source outside the property, EPA will not take action against the owner of that property. EPA may ask the owner to provide access to the property for sampling or cleanup. Policy documents on contaminated aquifers is available from the Superfund cleanup policy and guidance database.

Residential Homeowners

Generally, EPA will not take action against owners of residential property located on or adjacent to Superfund sites. This policy applies to properties that are owned and used exclusively for single family residences of 1-4 units. Additional information on residential homeowner liability is available from EPA's Policy Toward Owners of Residential Property at Superfund Sites (7/3/1991).

Learn More: Negotiating Superfund Settlements

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