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Indiana Department of Environmental Management

IDEM > Environmental Cleanup > Site Investigation > Site Investigation: Frequently Asked Questions Site Investigation: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is CERCLIS?

CERCLIS stands for the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Information System. It is a list that indicates sites that either have been or are being investigated for potential threats of hazardous substances to human health and/or the environment.

2. What does a CERCLIS listing mean to potential purchasers, lenders and insurers?

A CERCLIS listing does not necessarily mean that a site is heavily contaminated or contaminated at all. Sites are entered into CERCLIS because they have been reported to the U.S. EPA as appearing to pose a threat of hazardous substance release and therefore require further federal investigation. The assessment process is conducted to confirm, before appropriate action can be taken, whether or not contamination is present and, if so, who may be affected by this contamination.

3. What do Archived sites mean to potential purchasers, lenders and insurers?

The archived designation does not indicate a clean bill of health on a site. It merely means that the U.S. EPA does not intend to list the site on the NPL. Archived also means that based upon available information, further investigatory activities under the federal Superfund program are not anticipated. Archived sites may be reexamined later if warranted, and additional federal steps may be taken at the site if subsequent information indicates that the Archived designation needs to be revised.

4. What should potential or actual property owners do to lessen their risk?

Because the Archived designation does not give a clean bill of health to a site and still allows for enforcement actions under other statutes and by state and local governments, site owners still must evaluate the need for cleanup at their site. Potential owners of Archived sites should develop and implement their own site assessment and, if necessary, remediation/removal plans using a qualified environmental consultant. They can also use site assessment data gathered by IDEM or U.S. EPA, to help determine their potential risk. Owners should work closely with state and local government in developing their plans to ensure that the assessment and clean up strategies address federal, state and local concerns about threats of hazardous substance releases. The U.S. EPA encourages site owners to consult with state programs that have responsibility over voluntary cleanups. In this way, site owners can undertake appropriate cleanup on a voluntary basis, which in Indiana can be done through the IDEM's Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP). By working with state voluntary cleanup programs, property owners can significantly reduce the potential for later federal involvement. IFA's Brownfields Program can also assist parties in achieving redevelopment of sites.

5. How does a site get placed on CERCLIS?

Currently a member of IDEM's Site Investigations staff will gather information necessary to review a site's regulatory and operational history, and use that information to perform a Pre-CERCLIS Screening Assessment. If the site meets certain conditions as stated in the Pre-CERCLIS Screening [PDF], then the site will be recommended for placement into CERCLIS.

6. How is a site placed on the National Priorities List (NPL)?

In order for a site to be placed on the NPL, a score must be calculated for that site using the Hazard Ranking System. The minimum score necessary for a site to be placed on the list is a 28.5. Once the site scores above 28.5, it can then be proposed by IDEM for placement onto the NPL. The U.S. EPA's Headquarters is responsible for then reviewing the scoring and proposal of the site in question, and ultimately making the decision as to whether the site should be added to the NPL and referred to the Federal Superfund Program.

7. What kinds of things are used in calculating site scores?

When calculating a site score, many variables come into play. These include the potential groundwater, surface water, soil exposure, and air pathways. When looking at the possible pathways of contamination, the types and amounts of contaminants must be evaluated. The site conditions are evaluated as well to determine a likelihood of release of the discovered contaminants. In addition, potential targets such as human populations or sensitive environments (e.g. wetlands) are reviewed to determine their risk of being affected by the contamination from the site in question.

8. Does Pre-CERCLIS Screening apply to citizen-petitioned sites?

Citizen-petitioned sites are eligible for Pre-CERCLIS screening assessments and must meet the same criteria. According to Section 105(d) of CERCLA, U.S. EPA must perform a Preliminary Assessment (PA) or provide an explanation for why the PA was not appropriate within 12 months of receiving the petition.

9. How can I access SI program files?

IDEM maintains an electronic document repository that can be used to access public documents. See the agency’s Virtual File Cabinet (VFC) to access SI program files.