Hazardous Waste:

EPA's Superfund Program Improvements Result in Fewer Stopgap Cleanups

RCED-86-204: Published: Aug 15, 1986. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the number and cost of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) repeat cleanup actions at priority sites; (2) whether EPA is performing more thorough cleanups at priority hazardous waste sites; and (3) whether EPA has changed its removal operating policies and procedures since February 1985.

In February 1985, GAO recommended that EPA revise its regulations to require that removal actions eliminate surface hazards to reduce recurring threats, avoid repeated actions, and minimize Superfund expenditures. Although EPA considered each site stabilized after removal actions, GAO found that 35 sites required 80 subsequent actions within a short period of time. Of the 80 repeat actions, 73 took place at the priority sites EPA first addressed between December 1980 and February 1984. Although GAO could not determine how much EPA could save by performing more thorough initial cleanup actions, it identified $22 million associated with repeat actions. GAO also found that: (1) the extent to which EPA management changes will provide more complete cleanups is unknown because the lapse of Superfund taxing authority has curtailed or delayed 101 removal actions; (2) EPA revised its policies and procedures for stabilizing actual or potential emergencies at priority sites, although these revisions lack specific guidance as to the degree of cleanup; and (3) EPA is making progress performing short-term cleanups and has made only seven repeat cleanup actions at sites initially addressed since 1984.

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