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More about how Superfund affects construction and real estate

In a recent blog post, we discussed the obligations commercial and residential property owners have to disclose certain conditions of the property before selling it. You can read that blog post here.

One of the mandatory real estate disclosure laws we mentioned was Superfund, which is officially known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA. Business owners who are considering buying a piece of commercial property may have heard of Superfund, but not know what it is all about.

Congress passed Superfund in December 1980. It is an environmental protection law meant to address substances in the ground that could cause serious pollution if released.

Using taxes on the chemical and petroleum industries, the government built up a trust fund for use in removing hazardous waste. When the party responsible for producing the waste and leaving it in the ground cannot be identified, this fund is available to pay for the cleanup.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CERCLA authorizes two types of cleanup actions: short-term and long-term. Short-term removals are for when the waste has released or is threatening to release and quick action is necessary. Long-term remedial responses are appropriate when the hazardous substances are serious, but not immediately life threatening. The site must be listed on the EPA’s National Priorities List to qualify for a long-term cleanup.

In the past, businesses that produced hazardous waste were less restricted by regulations for the disposal of those substances. Today, this means that a construction project or real estate transaction can be complicated by the presence of toxic waste.

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