Site Investigation

The Site Investigation Program fulfills the assessment portion of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, or Superfund program. Site Investigation staff members assess potential hazardous waste sites and prioritize them for cleanup according to their impact on human health and/or the environment. The assessment determines a site’s potential to be placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) or whether it should be referred to another cleanup program.

Overview of the Assessment Process

The assessment process typically begins with the Site Investigation staff receiving a complaint, site report, or site referral from other Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) personnel, citizens, or county health department officials. The process involves these activities:

  • Site Investigation staff members:
    • Gather preliminary information about the site.
    • Evaluate conditions or practices to determine whether they currently or may in the future contribute to environmental contamination.
    • Identify and evaluate possible negative impacts to human health and/or the environment that may be affected by any discovered contamination.
    • Determine whether a site visit is also required.
  • After the preliminary information is collected, the staff prioritizes the site using the QuickScore computer model. Use of this computer model involves professional judgment that may include an evaluation of the overall site score, an evaluation of the site's past land use, possible sources of contamination, and sensitive environments.
  • The staff may determine that environmental samples, such as water, soil, or sediment, need to be collected.
  • If sample results or observations made during the site visit show that there is an immediate threat to human health and/or the environment, the staff may recommend an immediate removal action and may expand the investigation by collecting additional environmental samples or by gathering other types of useful information.
  • IDEM staff members and management determine the best way to deal with the site on a long-term basis after evaluating all collected data.

Site Investigation staff members may refer a site to other programs within IDEM at any time during the assessment process if jurisdiction falls to another authority. The staff could also refer the site to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it possibly qualifies for the federal Superfund NPL Program or Superfund Removal Program.

Community relations are a key to success when working with the assessment process. Members of a particular community often may be able to provide important detailed information about a site. The Site Investigation Process page provides additional information about the different processes and types of assessments performed.