Operations and Maintenance Activities Will Require Billions of Dollars

RCED-95-259: Published: Sep 29, 1995. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1995.

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GAO reviewed operations and maintenance (O&M) activities at former or current National Priorities List (NPL) Superfund sites where remediation construction has been completed, focusing on the: (1) extent to which O&M activities are necessary at Superfund sites; (2) costs to the federal government, states, and responsible parties to perform these activities now and in the future; and (3) Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) actions to help ensure that O&M activities continue to protect human health and the environment.

GAO found that: (1) the federal government, states, and responsible parties must perform long-term O&M activities at almost two-thirds of the 275 NPL sites reviewed; (2) these O&M activities include controlling erosion of landfill covers, treating contaminated groundwater, and implementing and enforcing land and water use restrictions; (3) the nationwide cost of current and future O&M activities will be about $32 billion through fiscal year 2040, much of which will be borne by the states and responsible parties; (4) the cost of a given site remedy will depend mainly on what remedy type EPA selects and the duration of the O&M activities; (5) until recently, EPA has focused on the evaluation and cleanup of Superfund sites, but EPA monitoring of O&M activities is crucial because states and responsible parties do not always follow their O&M plans and site conditions can deteriorate; (6) EPA is just now developing guidance for site project managers on monitoring O&M activities to ensure that O&M plans are followed; and (7) EPA has a significant backlog of 5-year reviews and may not be aware of deteriorating conditions at some sites.

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