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Pursuing a Superfund citizen suit

In a previous post, we commented that private citizens have the ability to play a role in making cleanup of contaminated sites possible through the EPA’s Superfund program. Here we want to talk a bit about what we meant.

First of all, private citizens can help in alerting authorities to site contamination. This is important, because it is often private parties who first become aware of site contamination rather than the EPA or some other authority. By being informed about the Superfund program and reporting suspected contamination, private citizens can have an active role in EPA enforcement. 

Another possibility for private citizens is to file a lawsuit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund. CERCLA provides for only a limited possibility of filing a citizen suit to enforce site cleanup through the Superfund program.

According to the EPA, private citizens are able to sue federal facilities under CERCLA in order to enforce deadlines set forth in remedial investigations and feasibility studies, to satisfy terms and conditions of remedial design and remediation action plans, and to enforce terms of intraagency agreements. The foregoing are specific phases or aspects of the Superfund cleanup process as it pertains to federal facilities found to have contributed to contamination. In a future post, we’ll look at where citizens can gain access to these studies, action plans, and agreements.

Navigating the Superfund process and initiating a citizen suit is not an easy process to undertake, and it is important for those affected by federal facility contamination and who are considering the possibility of suing to consult with an experienced attorney to ensure they have the guidance they need to put the best case forward in court, as well as to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. 

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