EPA to Retire CERCLIS, Launch New Information System

In the fall of 2014, EPA announced it will retire CERCLIS, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System and replace it with the new Superfund Enterprise Management System (SEMS). For over three decades, CERCLIS has served as the application that stores information about releases, clean-ups and enforcement activities under the Superfund Act of 1980, also known as CERCLA. We’ve put together a brief FAQ about the new SEMS system to help you understand what’s changing and how it might impact your work.

What is SEMS?

The Superfund Enterprise Management System is a computer application that EPA has built over the past several years. Once active, the new SEMS system will integrate under one umbrella the functions that formerly resided in the old CERCLIS application, the SDMS (Superfund Document Management System) and a few other internally facing EPA applications. SEMS will house the traditional CERCLIS data that environmental consultants are accustomed to seeing in their EDR Reports.

What’s changing from an environmental data perspective?

The change to the new SEMS application is mostly aimed at improving operational efficiency within EPA. The EPA has copied over all the data that was previously housed in CERCLIS and will now manage it within SEMS. EDR’s contacts at the EPA have suggested that once SEMS is active, the public might have access to additional files and documents about CERCLIS sites, including PDF documents and images. There may also be additional GIS attributes in SEMS, but the details surrounding this are not fully clear yet.

Is EPA updating CERCLIS in the meantime?

As EPA is currently making the transition to SEMS, they have retired the CERCLIS system and have refrained from updating the CERCLIS list of sites. The last time the CERCLIS database was updated by EPA was October of 2013.

When will SEMS be launched?

EPA is now in the final stages of quality assurance before launching the SEMS application. Several EPA representatives have told EDR that the rollout will be gradual, with EPA headquarters and the nine regions rolling out the system after their own QA/QC processes are completed. EPA is considering releasing a file of basic site information this spring or summer, prior to the full SEMS release. EDR will be monitoring all releases and updates closely.

What are the implications for regulations and standards that reference CERCLIS?

The term “CERCLIS” will remain in the CERCLA statute, and EPA cannot change that. The working regulation from the NCP (National Contingency Program) has been amended to say SEMS, and the term “CERCLIS” will still remain in the definitions section of the NCP regulations for historical reference. The National Priority List (NPL) will not be impacted, in name or substance, by the replacement of CERCLIS with SEMS.

EPA will likely put forth a notice or amendment to the AAI rule to bring the statute in line with the new system. The ASTM E50 committee is aware of the change to CERCLIS and is considering what, if any, changes are appropriate for standards.

When will SEMS be available in EDR reports?

We’ll continue to track these ongoing developments carefully. When site data is made available, EDR will quickly load and activate the information, so you can remain in compliance with EPA and ASTM standards.

Update! EPA released SEMS data in January 2016. Read the latest here.