Landfill Pictures
Landfill Pictures

The town of Love Canal in New York was closed down after toxic waste was found to be the cause of miscarriages and birth defects. See more landfill pictures.

Joe Traver/Getty Images

You crack open the Sunday paper to find a new place to live and come across an incredible deal -- a spacious and surprisingly affordable apartment. Jumping at the opportunity, you rush to the leasing office to scope out the property. Everything seems perfect, and you're just about to sign the lease when you notice a clause stating that the apartment complex sits on land that used to be a toxic waste dump. Even though you're told the land is perfectly safe now, you have serious reservations about making this apartment complex your home.

Landfill Pictures

The thought of living, working or being anywhere near an ex-toxic waste dump understandably worries many people, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to quell those concerns. In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) gave the EPA authority to find ways to fund and implement cleanups of areas contaminated with toxic waste. These areas are known as Superfund sites.

­But after years of successful cleanups of hundreds of sites, much of the newly safe land sat unused, which damaged property values and the communities' economies. That's why, in 1999, th­e EPA formed an initiative to clean up these Superfund sites and make sure they are productively reused. This Superfund Redevelopment Initiative (SRI) works with communities to accomplish two goals:

  • To decide on a specific use for the land before the actual cleanup of the Superfund site begins. That way cleanup is geared toward the purpose for the land.
  • To take Superfund sites that have already been cleaned up and put them to good use

­These are both difficult tasks given the overwhelming misconceptions about Superfund sites. Are companies that produced the toxic waste expected to pay for redevelopment? And, if so, are they happy about it? Learn more about the Superfund Redevelopment process on the next page.