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Texas Superfund Site Discovery and Assessment Program

The SSDAP is responsible for identifying and ranking sites for remediation under the state and federal Superfund programs.


The Superfund Site Discovery and Assessment Program identifies and ranks sites for remediation under the state and federal Superfund programs. TCEQ personnel conduct assessments to identify sites that may immediately and substantially endanger public health and safety or the environment due to a release or threatened release of hazardous substances.


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State Superfund Program

Under this program, TCEQ personnel identify and evaluate sites for eligibility for the state Superfund registry. The two main requirements that must be met before a site can be evaluated are:

  • documented hazardous substances on-site
  • site abandoned or inactive with documented attempts to resolve the release or threatened release through enforcement or voluntary cleanup remedies.

See the evaluation process flowchart available in PDF. (Help with PDF.)

State Superfund Ranking

If a site is determined eligible for evaluation under the state Superfund program, then the relative priority for action is investigated by preparing a Hazard Ranking System (HRS) Exit the TCEQ package (40 CFR 300, Appendix A). The HRS is a scoring system developed by the EPA that is used to evaluate potential threats to human health and the environment from hazardous waste sites. The HRS presents a score from 0 to 100, based on the actual or potential release of hazardous substances that will affect human health or the environment from a site. Preparing an HRS package is a comprehensive information gathering and assessment process. It is undertaken to procure the necessary information needed to document a site score.

Sites that receive an HRS score of 5.0 or greater may be eligible for listing in the sate Superfund registry as state Superfund sites. However, a site that receives an HRS score of 28.5 or greater is also eligible for consideration on the National Priorities List as a federal Superfund site. Sites with an HRS score of 28.5 or greater, that the EPA has determined are not of NPL caliber may then be proposed to the state Superfund registry.

The state Superfund registry, established by the 69th Texas Legislature in 1985 and administered by the TCEQ, lists those abandoned or inactive sites that have serious contamination but do not qualify for the federal program, and therefore are cleaned up under the state program. The state must comply with federal guidelines in administering the state Superfund program, but EPA approval of state Superfund actions is not required.

Immediate Removals

During the state site assessment process, an immediate removal determination is made on each site to determine if there exists a release or threatened release of a hazardous substance where immediate action is appropriate to protect human health and the environment.

An immediate removal is a short-term response intended to stabilize a site or stop ongoing releases and prevent harm to human health and the environment during the site ranking process.

Immediate removals can include fencing an area to restrict access, over-packing a leaking drum, or removing hazardous substances. Once a site is proposed and listed on the state Superfund registry, a comprehensive remedial investigation and feasibility study is conducted by the TCEQ Superfund staff to determine the full extent and nature of the contamination and select the final remedy for cleanup.

Search for Potentially Responsible Parties

Persons who are responsible for hazardous-substance releases are liable for cleanup and restitution costs. State funds from the Hazardous Waste Remediation Fee Fund may be used to finance initial response actions, followed by recovery of costs from responsible parties

During the Superfund ranking process a search for potentially responsible parties is initiated for each site to identify all such parties associated with the site and determine their relationship. All information obtained is compiled to develop the history of the site and to eventually identify the PRPs.

PRPs as defined by state code may include current and former landowners and facility operators, and persons who were involved in the transport, storage, processing, or disposal of hazardous substances at the site, or any person who suffers, allows, or permits a spill or discharge of hazardous substances.

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Federal Superfund Program

The federal Superfund program helps states facilitate the costly cleanup of some of the most contaminated sites. There are 44 Texas sites currently on the National Priority List, which identifies sites with priority needs and places them in the federal Superfund program.

The federal Superfund process begins with site discovery or notification to the EPA of possible releases of hazardous substances. Sites are discovered by various parties, including citizens, state agencies, and EPA regional offices.

Once discovered, sites are entered into the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS),  Exit the TCEQ the EPAs computerized inventory of potential hazardous substance release sites. The EPA then evaluates the potential for a release of hazardous substances from the site during two investigative steps, called the preliminary assessment and the screening site inspection.

Information collected during the preliminary assessment and the screening site inspection is used to calculate a hazard ranking score. Sites with an HRS score of 28.50 or greater are eligible for listing on the National Priorities List Exit the TCEQ and require the preparation of an HRS scoring package.

Preliminary Assessment

The preliminary assessment is a limited-scope investigation performed on every CERCLIS site. PA investigations collect readily available information about a site and its surrounding area. The PA is designed to distinguish, based on limited data, between sites that pose little or no threat to human health and the environment and sites that may pose a threat and require further investigation. The PA also identifies sites requiring assessment for possible emergency response Exit the TCEQ actions. If the PA results in a recommendation for further investigation, a screening site inspection is performed. The EPA publication Guidance for Performing Preliminary Assessments Under CERCLA, September 1991 (NTISExit the TCEQ PB92-963303, EPA 9345.0-01A) provides more information on conducting PAs.

Screening Site Inspection

The screening site inspection identifies sites that have a high probability of qualifying for the NPL Exit the TCEQ and provides the data needed for HRS Exit the TCEQ scoring and documentation. Investigators typically collect environmental and waste samples to determine what hazardous substances are present at a site, and if so are they being released to the environment and have they reached nearby targets. The SSI can be conducted in one stage or two. The first stage tests hypotheses developed during the preliminary assessment and can yield information sufficient to prepare the HRS scoring package. If further information is necessary to document an HRS score, an expanded SSI is conducted. The EPA publication Guidance for Performing Site Inspections Under CERCLA; Interim Final, September 1992, (NTISExit the TCEQ PB92-963375, EPA 9345.1-05) includes more information on conducting SIs.

State PA/SI Program

Under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 and the 1986 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), the EPA Region 6 has enlisted the TCEQs Superfund Site Discovery and Assessment Program to conduct preliminary assessments, screening site inspections, early potentially responsible party searches and hazard ranking score documentation records for the EPA records under a state PA/SI program through a multi-site cooperative agreement. However, each site is screened by SSDAP before being accepted for the state PA/SI assessment so that only those sites that have the highest likelihood of progressing towards a NPL proposal are selected.

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Required use of SW-846 Method 5035

New Information

Beginning January 1, 2016, the TCEQ Remediation Division will require the use of United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) SW846 Method 5035A, Purge-and-Trap and Extraction for Volatile Organics in Soil and Waste Samples, as amended, for the collection and preparation of solid samples for volatile organic compound (VOC) analysis using purge-and-trap technology.

The TCEQ Remediation Division guidance on Method 5035 has been updated and is available.