Environmental Cleanup:

Progress in Resolving Long-Standing Issues at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

NSIAD-96-32: Published: Mar 29, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the cleanup program at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, focusing on the: (1) status of cleanup efforts; (2) completion plans for the cleanup; and (3) cost-sharing plans between the Army and Shell Oil Company, which leased a portion of the Arsenal.

GAO found that: (1) permanent cleanup at Rocky Mountain Arsenal has been delayed for years due to lawsuits and numerous other disputes between the parties involved; (2) in June 1995, Colorado and five other key parties signed an agreement for a conceptual remedy to address the lawsuits and disputes; (3) although about $300 million of the nearly $1 billion spent to date has been for interim actions to mitigate the most urgent environmental threats, the majority has been spent on studies and other management activities; (4) the June 1995 conceptual agreement resolves the most significant issues and paves the way for a final settlement, or record of decision, in 1996; (5) based on the agreement, the Army currently estimates the cleanup will cost $2.1 billion and take until 2012; (6) prior to the agreement, the Army had estimated a $2.8-billion to $3.6-billion cleanup effort to be complete in about 2010; (7) although the agreement addresses many of the disputed issues, the final details are yet to be negotiated; (8) until the cleanup plan is detailed and finalized in the record of decision, the cost and completion estimates will be subject to change; (9) under a 1989 settlement, the Army and Shell are sharing cleanup costs, and the costs to correct damages attributable solely to either the Army or to Shell are to be financed by the responsible party; (10) however, most contamination was commingled, and these cleanup costs will be shared under a formula requiring each party to pay 50 percent of the first $500 million in cleanup costs, with Shell's share decreasing as total costs increase; (11) although the agreement does not limit total contributions, Shell estimated its total costs will be about $500 million and so far has contributed $274 million; (12) by the time the final phase of cleanup begins in May 1996, under an expected record of decision, the Army will be responsible for 80 percent of the costs for commingled contamination; and (13) these costs represent most of the remaining cleanup.

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