Hazardous Waste Sites Pose Investigation, Evaluation, Scientific, and Legal Problems

CED-81-57: Published: Apr 24, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1981.

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Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a mandate to: (1) discover, investigate, evaluate, and respond to uncontrolled hazardous waste sites; (2) perform hazardous waste research; and (3) seek solutions to hazardous waste problems and, if necessary, file suit in federal courts.

EPA has had difficulty in fulfilling its mandate because: (1) site investigation and evaluation activities lag behind an ever-increasing number of potential sites requiring investigation and evaluation; (2) the capabilities to identify and analyze hazardous waste and understand the real or potential risk are limited by both cost and scientific knowledge; and (3) federal enforcement efforts have been limited by both the resources available to demonstrate potential harm in a case and by the need to identify potentially viable defendents to pay for remedial measures or cleanup costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should assess how the gederal government can expand its enforcement efforts at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. If additional resources or increased legislative authority are among the alternatives, the Administrator should provide such information to Congress for its consideration.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should provide an estimate of the total EPA resources needed to investigate and evaluate potential hazardous waste sites. The estimate should be based on those sites currently known to need investigation and evaluation and those that are projected to need such action in each of fiscal years 1981 through 1985.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should provide an estimate of the amount of resources needed to clean up and respond to hazardous waste sites. Such amount should be based on those sites currently known to need cleanup or response action, those that are projected to need such action in each of fiscal years 1981 through 1985, and estimates of the fund's replenishment through responsible parties.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct the Assistant Administrator for Research and Development to evaluate ongoing EPA hazardous waste research programs in the biological testing, health effects, and transport and fate areas to determine what actions can be taken to increase EPA's efforts to: (1) develop and standardize biological monitoring and bioassay techniques as methods for determining whether samples taken from potential hazardous waste sites are or are not hazardous, thus reducing the initial need for more costly and time consuming chemical analysis; (2) better determine health effects, especially chronic effects, that are caused by or closely associated with exposure to hazardous waste; and (3) more accurately understand the transport and fate of hazardous substances as they leave disposal sites and migrate through the environment (soil, air, groundwater, and surface water) to reach human populations. The evaluation should specify where joint EPA/HHS research projects should be encouraged in these three areas.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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