Hazardous Waste:

Responsible Party Clean Up Efforts Require Improved Oversight

RCED-86-123: Published: May 6, 1986. Publicly Released: May 6, 1986.


Richard L. Hembra
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed cleanup activities at priority hazardous waste sites, specifically: (1) the number, estimated value, and purpose of settlement agreements between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and responsible parties; and (2) how well EPA is overseeing responsible-party compliance with the settlement terms.

GAO found that: (1) approximately half of the settlements were for long-term site cleanup activities, and cleanup work was valued at $417 million; (2) the purpose of the settlement agreements was to ensure that responsible parties either performed cleanup activities at hazardous waste sites or reimbursed the government for cleanup at the sites; and (3) no formal guidelines or procedures exist for project managers to oversee settlement activities and enforce decisions, causing delays in identifying and resolving problems.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To adequately ensure that responsible parties comply with settlement conditions and cleanup goals, the Administrator, EPA, should strengthen the EPA settlement oversight function by providing project managers with: (1) guidance and procedures on work-load management, how to organize, prioritize, and perform duties and responsibilities, and how to use quality assurance reviews; and (2) procedures and standards for oversight recordkeeping and reporting, determining settlement noncompliance, and taking appropriate enforcement actions.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA is taking steps to improve responsible party oversight. Site-by-site contractor support has been provided and a comprehensive system has been developed to track Superfund enforcement information. A longer term effort is underway to develop an oversight guidance manual. Staff turnover has delayed completion of these efforts.

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