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Pulling Together 3

A Guide to Building Interagency Collaboration at Hazardous Waste Sites

Glossary of Terms

This glossary is a compilation of glossaries from the following sources:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Road Map to Understanding Innovative Technology Options for Brownfields Investigation and Clean Up. Washington, DC, 1997.

Kathy Dalton. Reclaiming Lost Ground: A Resource Guide for Community Based Brownfields Development in Massachusetts. Boston: Tufts University/Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, 1998.

Lizette Hernandez with Torri Estrada and Catalina Garzon. Building Upon Our Strengths: A Community Guide to Brownfields Development in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco: The Urban Habitat Program, 1999.

National Association of County and City Health Officials. Don't Hazard a Guess: Addressing Community Health Concerns at Hazardous Waste Sites. 1995.

Sierra Club. Brownfields Guidance Document. February 1996.

For additional Superfund-related terms and acronyms, visit EPA's Superfund Acronyms Web site: http://cfpub.epa.gov/superapps/index.cfm/fuseaction/acronyms.viewAll/drillAcronyms_all.cfm.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federal public health agency and is part of the Public Health Service in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Created by Superfund legislation in 1980, ATSDR's mission is to prevent exposure and adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life associated with exposure to hazardous substances from waste sites, unplanned releases, and other sources of pollution in the environment. Through its programs—including surveillance, registries, health studies, environmental health education, and applied substance-specific research—and by working with federal, state, and local government agencies, ATSDR acts to protect public health.

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASHTO)
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is the national nonprofit organization representing the state and territorial public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Staff members provide information to state health agencies and ASTHO members and alumni on public policy. The organization addresses a variety of key public health issues and publishes newsletters, survey results, resource lists, and policy papers that assist states in the development of public policy and in the promotion of public health programs at the state level.

Abandoned, idled, or underused industrial or commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definition excludes sites contaminated with petroleum.

Community Action Group (CAG) [[make consistent]]
A community advisory group (CAG) is made up of representatives of diverse interests from within the community. The CAG provides a public forum for community members to discuss their concerns related to the hazardous waste site and the decision-making process. This group also provides a way for agencies, such as ATSDR, the EPA, and state environmental and health departments, to not only be informed of the community's health and information needs and concerns, but also to distribute information to the community. For more information on forming a CAG, go to the EPA's Web site: www.epa.gov/superfund/tools/cag.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
A federal law passed in 1980 created a special tax against chemical and petroleum manufacturers that funds a trust fund, commonly known as Superfund, to be used to investigate and clean up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. CERCLA required for the first time that the EPA step beyond its traditional regulatory role and provide response authority to clean up hazardous waste sites. The EPA has primary responsibility for managing cleanup and enforcement activities authorized under CERCLA. Under the program, the EPA can pay for cleanup when parties responsible for the contamination cannot be located or are bankrupt, deceased, or unwilling or unable to perform the work. When responsible parties refuse to cooperate, the EPA can take legal action to force parties responsible for contamination to clean up the site or reimburse the federal government for the cost of the cleanup. See also Superfund.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS)
A database that serves as the official inventory of hazardous waste sites throughout the country. CERCLIS also contains information about all aspects of hazardous waste sites, from initial discovery to deletion from the National Priorities List (NPL). The database also maintains information about planned and actual site activities and financial information entered by EPA regional offices. CERCLIS records the targets and accomplishments of the Superfund program and is used to report that information to the EPA Administrator, Congress, and the public. See also National Priorities List and Superfund.

Disposal Site
Any structure, well, pit, pond, lagoon, impoundment, ditch, landfill, or other place or area, excluding ambient air or surface water, where uncontrolled oil and or hazardous material has come to be located as a result of any spilling, leaking, pouring, abandoning, emitting, emptying, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, discarding, or other disposing of such oil and/or hazardous material.

Early Action
Early Action, sometimes called a Removal Action, is an action taken when a hazardous waste site may become a threat to humans or the environment in the near future. Early Actions take anywhere from a few days to a few years and can be taken at any point in the Superfund process. Some sites can be completely cleaned up through a Removal Action and other sites may require long-term action. Early Actions may include: 1) cleanup or removal of substances threatening to contaminate the environment; 2) installation of security fences to limit access to the site; 3) provision of alternative water supplies; 4) temporary evacuation and housing of at-risk individuals; and 5) any emergency assistance provided under the Disaster Relief Act.

Enforcement Action
An action taken by the EPA under its authority granted by various federal environmental statutes, such as CERCLA, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), CAA, CWA, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and others. For example, under CERCLA, the EPA may obtain voluntary settlement or compel potentially responsible parties (PRP) to implement removal or remedial actions when releases of hazardous substances have occurred.

Environmental Justice
The effort to reduce the following: racial and economic discrimination in environmental policymaking and rules; the unequal enforcement of environmental regulations and laws; the deliberate targeting of communities with a larger proportion of minorities and economically depressed people for toxic waste facilities; and the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of hazardous waste and pollutants in minority communities.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
See United StatesEnvironmental Protection Agency (US EPA).

Hazard Ranking System (HRS)
The primary screening tool used by the EPA to assess the risks posed to human health or the environment by abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Under the HRS, sites are assigned scores on the basis of the toxicity of hazardous substances present and the potential that those substances will spread through the air, over soil surface, in water, or in groundwater, taking into account such factors as the proximity of the substance to nearby populations. Scores are used in determining which sites should be placed on the NPL. See also National Priorities List.

Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA)
1984 amendments to RCRA that require phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste and add minimum technology requirements. See also Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Hazardous Substance
As defined under CERCLA, any material that poses a threat to public health or the environment. The term also refers to hazardous wastes as defined under the RCRA. Typical hazardous substances are materials that are toxic, corrosive, ignitable, explosive, or chemically reactive. If a certain quantity of a hazardous substance, as established by the EPA, is spilled into the water or otherwise emitted into the environment, the release must be reported. Under the legislation cited above, the term excludes petroleum, crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, or synthetic gas usable for fuel.

Hazardous Waste
A waste or combination of wastes that because of quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may cause an increase in serious, irreversible, or incapacitating illness. Hazardous wastes also pose a substantial hazard to human health, safety, public welfare, or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, used, or disposed of. However, it does not include solid or dissolved materials in irrigation return flows or industrial discharges that are point sources subject to permits under Section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1967 (as amended), or source, special nuclear, or by-product material as defined by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as further described in 310 CMR 30.000.

Health Assessment
See Public Health Assessment.

Health Consultation
An ATSDR health consultation provides advice on a specific public health issue related to real or possible human exposure to toxic material. It is a way to respond quickly to a need for health information on toxic substances and to make recommendations for actions to protect the public's health. Staff evaluate information available about toxic material at the site, determine whether people might be exposed to it, and report what harm exposure might cause.

Interagency Collaboration
Interagency collaboration is the process of coordinating the responsibilities of the agencies involved at a hazardous waste site. These agencies, which include the EPA, ATSDR, the local public health agency (LPHA), and state and local environmental agencies among others, are involved with addressing community concerns—about health issues or environmental quality—surrounding a site. Outcomes of interagency collaboration could include reduction of duplicative efforts among agencies, improved coordination of risk communication and public health messaging, and/or improved ability of agencies to address the environmental health needs of the community.

Medical Monitoring
Screening of an at-risk population for specific diseases or conditions relating to hazardous wastes; may result in referral for treatment.

National Priorities List (NPL)
The EPA's list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites identified for possible long-term remedial response under Superfund. Inclusion of a site on the list is based primarily on the score the site receives under the HRS. Money from Superfund can be used for cleanup only at sites that are on the NPL. The EPA is required to update the NPL at least once a year.

Potentially Responsible Party (PRP)
An individual or company (such as owners, operators, transporters, or generators of hazardous waste) that is potentially responsible for, or contributing to, the contamination problems at a Superfund site. Whenever possible, tge EPA requires PRPs, through administrative and legal actions, to clean up hazardous waste sites they have contaminated.

Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PA/SI)
Preliminary assessment/site inspection is the initial two-phase study of a potential Superfund site. A preliminary assessment is done to collect and review available information. If more information is needed, then a site inspection is done. The preliminary assessment, conducted by either the EPA or the state environmental agency, gathers data on how the public could be exposed to hazardous substances at a site, determines if any short-term cleanup work is needed, and eliminates from further consideration sites that do not pose risks to public health or the environment. The SI builds upon the data collected in the PA and includes on-site and off-site sampling and field investigation. From this data, the EPA will score the site according to the Hazard Ranking System.   

Public Health Advisory
A Public Health Advisory is a way for ATSDR to respond quickly when hazardous substances released into the environment pose an immediate and significant danger to people's health. It is a notice sent directly from ATSDR's administrator to EPA's administrator that alerts the EPA to a public health threat. Other government agencies—such as state and local health and environmental agencies—are also notified about the problem. ATSDR works with all these agencies to take action to protect the public.

Public Health Assessment
Public Health Assessments are conducted to determine appropriate public health action aimed at addressing community health concerns and evaluating relevant community-specific health outcome data.

Record of Decision (ROD)
A legal, technical, and public document that explains which cleanup alternative will be used at a site. The ROD is based on information and technical analysis generated during the remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) and consideration of public comments and community concerns.

Remedial Design and Remedial Action (RD/RA)
The step in the cleanup process that follows the remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) and selection of a remedy. A remedial design (RD) is the preparation of engineering plans and specifications to implement the remedy properly and effectively. The remedial action (RA) is the actual construction or implementation of the remedy. See also Remedial investigation and feasibility study.

Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS)
This step in the cleanup process is conducted to gather sufficient information to support the selection of a site remedy that will reduce or eliminate the risks associated with contamination at the site. The remedial investigation (RI) involves site characterization—collection of data and information necessary to characterize the nature and extent of contamination at the site. The RI also determines whether the contamination presents a significant risk to human health or the environment. The feasibility study (FS) focuses on the development of specific response alternatives for addressing contamination at a site.

The construction or implementation phase of a Superfund site cleanup that follows the remedial design.

Removal Action
A short-term effort designed to stabilize or clean up a hazardous waste site that poses an immediate threat to human health or the environment. Removal actions include removing tanks or drums of hazardous substances found on the surface and installing drainage controls or security measures, such as a fence at the site. Removal actions also may be conducted to respond to accidental releases of hazardous substances. CERCLA places time and money constraints on the duration of removal actions.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
RCRA is a federal law enacted in 1976 that established a regulatory system to track hazardous substances from their generation to their disposal. The law requires the use of safe and secure procedures in treating, transporting, storing, and disposing of hazardous substances. RCRA is designed to prevent the creation of new, uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

Risk Assessment
The amount of risk assessed associated with the effect on public and environmental health and safety from a polluting source. In environmental law, the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the risk posed to human health and the environment by the presence or potential presence of hazardous materials. In finance, the evaluation of the risk associated with making a loan.

Site Inspection (SI)
A technical phase that follows a preliminary assessment designed to collect more extensive information on a hazardous waste site. The information is used to score the site using the Hazardous Ranking System to determine whether response action is needed.

Strict Liability

A concept under CERCLA that empowers the federal government to hold PRPs liable without proving that the PRPs were at fault and without regard to a PRP's motive. PRPs can be found liable even if the problems caused by the release of a hazardous substance were unforeseeable, the PRPs acted in good faith, and state-of-the-art hazardous waste management practices were used at the time the materials were disposed of. See also Potentially Responsible Party.

The trust fund that provides for the cleanup of hazardous substances released into the environment, regardless of fault. The Superfund was established under CERCLA and subsequent amendments to CERCLA. The term Superfund is used also to refer to cleanup programs designed and conducted under CERCLA and its subsequent amendments. See also Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA)
The 1986 act amending CERCLA that increased the size of the Superfund trust fund, established a preference for the development and use of permanent remedies, and provided new enforcement and settlement tools. See also Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) Program
An effort established by the EPA in 1986 to advance the development, evaluation, and commercialization of innovative treatment technologies for assessing and cleaning up hazardous waste sites. The program provides an opportunity for technology developers to demonstrate their technologies' ability to successfully process and remediate hazardous waste. The SITE program has four components: the Emerging Technology Program, the Demonstration Program, the Monitoring and Measurement Technologies Program, and the Technology Transfer Program.

Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) Program
A grant program that provides funds for qualified citizens' groups to hire independent technical advisors to help them understand and comment on technical decisions relating to Superfund cleanup actions at NPL sites.

United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is the federal regulatory agency charged with all aspects of Superfund related to the cleanup (remediation) of the National Priorities List (NPL) sites. This includes expending monies and seeking reimbursement of the funds from potentially responsible parties. The EPA's 10 regional offices are responsible for preparing and carrying out the cleanup actions at each site. In addition, the EPA is responsible for the daily enforcement of site activities, which differ from site to site. Any legal activities related to the site will be handled by the Department of Justice.