ON THE HILL:
1980President Carter signs the Superfund bill into law, funded by $1.6 billion from an excise tax on the chemical and petroleum industries. The newly created Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry assesses the health effects of more than 65,000 industrial chemicals.
1982Congressional investigations reveal widespread corruption; 22 high-ranking EPA officials are fired, and President Reagan's Superfund chief, Rita Lavelle, is jailed for six months.
1986As the scope and complexity of toxic-waste cleanups skyrocket, Congress increases the tax-fed Superfund goal to $8.5 billion. States must pitch in 10 percent of cleanup costs.
1991Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., leads an investigation of the private contractors working for Superfund and finds that the EPA regularly paid for equipment marked up more than 400 percent.
1991Congress passes the Pollution Prevention Act, requiring companies to account for all the toxic materials they use.
1993President Clinton launches the Brownfields Initiative in an effort to "recycle" industrial wastelands and promote them as usable real estate.
1995Congress, led by Republican House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich, kills the Superfund corporate "polluter tax." Taxpayers pick up about 18 percent of the program's cost.
2000The EPA celebrates the 20th anniversary of Superfund, touting more than 700 National Priorities List sites cleaned up. Under Clinton, the EPA completed 605 of those sites, an average of about 76 each year.
2001During President Bush's first year in office, Superfund cleans up only 48 priorities list sites.
2002With Christine Todd Whitman heading the EPA, Superfund completes only 38 cleanups to date this year.
2002Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson removes Centers for Disease Control pediatrician Michael Wetzman, who argued for more stringent acceptable blood-lead levels in children, and nominates Dr. William Banner, who has questioned whether current lead standards are too strict.
2003The Superfund trust is predicted to fall to $28 million.
2004Unless the Superfund "polluter tax" is reinstated, the trust fund will hit rock bottom. Superfund cleanups will be entirely dependent on taxpayer money.
ON THE GROUND:
1978A company that operates a dam holding more than 8 million gallons of toxic waste discharges some of that waste into the Santa Anna River near Riverside, Calif. Children and animals swim in the contaminated water.
1978 Cleanup begins at Love Canal, N.Y., where residents complain of rising health problems in children and a suffocating odor emanating from a chemical dump in their neighborhood.