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In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), better known as the Superfund Act. This law gives the USEPA the authority to respond to chemical emergencies and to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. The Superfund program addresses both short and long-term risks, from toxic chemical spills and threats to the permanent cleanup and rehabilitation of abandoned hazardous waste sites.

The Superfund program evaluates sites that have been, or may have been, contaminated for admission into the federal program under CERCLA. A Superfund site (or National Priority List site) is one that was historically contaminated and that presents a significant threat to human health and the environment. Under Superfund, the US EPA can direct funds to study a specific site and to require cleanup if necessary.

In Nevada, only one site has been designated a Superfund site: the Carson River Basin from New Empire in Carson City to Stillwater and the Carson Sink. To minimize long-term direct contact with soil potentially impacted by Comstock-Era mining, the NDEP reviews residential, commercial and recreational development plans, provides information to current residents, and prospective purchasers.

Brownfield Sites are sites that are currently being underutilized because of real or potential contamination. The Brownfields Program provides services, funding or low interest loans to encourage redevelopment of these sites.

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