Hazardous Waste:

Corrective Action Cleanups Will Take Years To Complete

RCED-88-48: Published: Dec 9, 1987. Publicly Released: Jan 14, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to implement the corrective action provisions of the 1984 amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), to determine: (1) the number of hazardous waste facilities requiring corrective action; (2) the length of time it would take to implement the corrective action; (3) the system EPA plans to use to identify priorities among the facilities requiring corrective action; (4) the cleanup standards EPA will apply as compared to Superfund standards; and (5) how and when EPA would decide to transfer a facility to the Superfund Program.

GAO found that EPA: (1) estimated that of the 4,800 treatment, storage, and disposal facilities requiring corrective action, about 2,500 would need extensive cleanup; (2) projected that it would take until fiscal year 2005 to begin corrective action at all the facilities; (3) estimated that some cleanup actions would take 20 years to complete; (4) is conducting preliminary studies of about 660 land disposal facilities that are closing to determine if they are causing contamination; and (5) is considering combining RCRA facilities and Superfund sites needing corrective action to determine which sites and facilities pose the greatest risk. GAO also found that EPA: (1) plans to develop health-based estimates for all the chemicals found and tested at the RCRA facilities; and (2) projected that it could transfer about 800 RCRA facilities to Superfund for cleanup because many facility owners were bankrupt, debarred from operating under RCRA, or unwilling to clean up their facilities.

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