The uber challenge facing the incoming Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency in its oversight of 1,570 hazard waste sites is best summed in a name that’s become synonymous with the daunting task: Superfund.

The “Superfund” started out as a trust fund created by Congress in 1980 to finance cleanups, paid for by billions of dollars in taxes on the chemical and petroleum industries. Congress allowed the tax to expire 25 years ago.

Now, with the trust fund empty, Superfund has become the name of a drastically underfunded federal program responsible for ensuring the industries responsible for these toxic sites do the cleanup, if possible. The EPA shoulders the financial burden using budgeted funds at sites where responsible entities no longer exist or can’t be found.

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