Natural Resources and Environment:

Relative Risk in Superfund

RCED-94-233R: Published: Jun 17, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Superfund Program, focusing on whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prioritizes hazardous waste sites by their health risks. GAO noted that: (1) EPA headquarters leaves prioritizing to its regions which have not implemented the worst-sites-first policy; (2) EPA regions base their decisions for including sites on the National Priorities List (NPL) on nonrisk factors and do not use risk as a criterion for selecting NPL sites for priority cleanup; (3) the Hazard Ranking System's scores for contaminated sites are often incomplete and cannot be used to prioritize remedial work, since regions evaluate sites only as far as is necessary to determine if they should be included on NPL; (4) the worst hazardous sites may not be included in the Superfund program because EPA relies on states to report on their hazardous sites; and (5) some states clean up the most contaminated sites themselves without informing EPA to avoid the program delays.

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