Environmental Protection Agency's Progress in Implementing the Superfund Program

CED-82-91: Published: Jun 2, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1982.

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GAO was requested to review the Superfund program to identify issues or problems concerning: (1) the selection of candidate sites for Superfund attention; (2) the extent and cost effectiveness of removal, remedy, and other measures at candidate sites; and (3) the ability of state governments to carry out their Superfund responsibilities.

The Superfund legislation provides for a $1.6 billion fund to be accumulated from taxes and federal appropriations during fiscal years 1981 to 1985. The fund is to be used by the federal government or an authorized state government to clean up spilled toxic wastes and hazardous waste sites where the responsible party failed to do so. Overall, GAO found that: (1) the program's implementation during its first 15 months was hampered by a lack of final policies and guidance; (2) a limited number of sites are available for remedial action, and problems were encountered in developing the list of sites eligible for cleanup; (3) a national hazardous waste site inventory does not exist, and thousands of identified sites have not been assessed; (4) the cleanup of sites is expected to be a lengthy and flexible process; and (5) the funding obligated for program activities lags behind approved spending. Only the 115 sites on the interim priority list are currently eligible for Superfund-financed remedial action. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) process used to develop this list was inconsistent in applying a scoring system to sites. EPA expects to more than triple the number of candidates considered for the national priority list. It is critical that assessments of sites reported to EPA be conducted, since they represent the first step in determining whether a site is a problem or a potential problem. Until the national inventory is compiled and all identified or reported sites are assessed, the extent of the uncontrolled hazardous waste site problem will remain unknown.

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 direct that EPA and state personnel receive planned additional training and guidance in applying the scoring system to hazardous waste sites before such sites are scored for the national priority list.

    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 request the funding authorized under section 3012 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to initiate, in conjunction with the states, a national hazardous waste site inventory program.

    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 conduct preliminary assessments at all identified or reported hazardous waste sites lacking such assessments.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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