Spilled chemicals, petroleum, and other substances can contaminate soils, make the land unusable, and seep into groundwater that may be a source of drinking water. Groundwater contaminated with certain types of chemicals can also produce vapors that can affect nearby homes and businesses.
The MPCA identifies, investigates, and determines appropriate cleanup plans for sites where hazardous substances have been or could be released.
Redevelopment professionals and others involved in cleaning up contaminated sites, please see the Cleanup guidance page.
Superfund programs at both the state and federal level investigate and clean up sites where hazardous waste has been spilled or dumped and where contamination poses an actual or potential threat to public health or the environment. Both state and federal programs require specific investigation and cleanup processes and provide funds for certain types of cleanups.
Superfund is a "polluter pays" law. Responsible parties — such as past or present property owners or operators, or waste haulers or generators who dumped material on the site — are legally responsible for the cleanup.
At most Minnesota Superfund sites, a responsible party or parties does the investigation and cleanup without requiring the MPCA to take enforcement actions. Sites listed on the Minnesota Permanent List of Priorities are eligible for state cleanup dollars when there is no responsible party to pay. See the properties currently on the state's list:
The MPCA prepares biennial reports to track activities and expenditures in cleaning up Minnesota’s Superfund sites:
Check the Legislative Reference Library's collection for older Superfund program reports.
Federal Superfund sites
The MPCA will sometimes request that the U.S. EPA list Minnesota sites on the federal Superfund National Priorities List. Sites on the federal list are eligible for additional cleanup dollars. There are currently 25 Minnesota sites on the federal list.
Petroleum tank spills
The MPCA's Petroleum Remediation Program addresses petroleum contamination from leaking storage tanks and removing risks to human health and the environment. The responsible parties for petroleum leak sites must bear the cost of investigation and cleanup. Minnesota has approximately 20,000 sites where petroleum has spilled or leaked into the environment. You can search for information on specific sites with the MPCA's data tools:
- Petroleum Remediation Program maps — This interactive map shows petroleum sites in relation to wellhead protection areas, drinking water supply management areas, and source water assessments.
- Leaking and registered tanks sites — Find locations and information about tank construction, installation, and installed safety measures.
- What's in my neighborhood — View site cleanup status and site ownership.
Submit an information request to obtain information not available through MPCA's data tools.
Brownfields are abandoned, idled, or underused industrial and commercial properties where financing expansion or redevelopment is complicated by actual or suspected environmental contamination. By investigating and cleaning up brownfield sites, many of which are blighted properties in inner-city areas, redevelopment can take place without fear of risk to human health or potential environmental liabilities. This benefits Minnesota communities by reducing urban sprawl, enhancing the livability of neighborhoods, and creating new businesses, jobs, and an improved tax base.
The MPCA Brownfield Program is a fee-for-service program that provides technical assistance and issues liability-assurance letters to promote the investigation, cleanup, and redevelopment of property that is contaminated with petroleum and other hazardous substances. Learn more:
Natural Resource Damage Assessment
When oil or other hazardous substances are released into the environment and harm wildlife, water, air, or other natural resources, the state is authorized to seek compensation from the responsible parties to restore what was lost. A Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) may be initiated after significant environmental harm. In the NRDA process, the MPCA assesses the environmental harm and develops the claim to hold responsible parties accountable, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources oversees restoration planning and implementation. If federal or Tribal natural resources are involved, a trustee council is established to coordinate assessment and restoration activities.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a federal law covering a range of programs dealing with waste disposal, recycling, and recovery. One of these programs, the RCRA Corrective Action program, is aimed at investigating and cleaning up improperly managed hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal facilities. Learn more:
Hazardous waste sites with RCRA permits and "interim" sites, which have applied for RCRA permits but not completed the process, are both subject to RCRA corrective action. In some cases, sites where hazardous waste has been released into the environment will go through the RCRA Correction Action process, even when the sites are not regulated by RCRA permits.
St. Louis River Area of Concern
The MPCA is collaborating with many federal, state, and local partners to clean up sites in the Duluth Harbor and St. Louis River that are contaminated from a century of industrial and shipping activities.
- Sediment cleanup sites in the St. Louis River Area of Concern
- Habitat restoration progress in the St. Louis River Area of Concern
Learn more about the St. Louis River Area of Concern.
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