Natural Resources and Environment:

A Superfund Tool for More Efficient Cleanups

RCED-96-134R: Published: Apr 15, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) use of non-time-critical removals for hazardous waste cleanups, focusing on: (1) the advantages and disadvantages of non-time-critical removals; (2) the potential use of non-time-critical removals in Superfund cleanups; and (3) factors that inhibit the use of non-time-critical removals. GAO found that: (1) on average the use of non-time-critical removals could expedite environmental cleanups by 2 years and reduce costs by about $500,000 over similar cleanup actions using the remedial removal process; (2) non-time-critical removals are successful because they have a streamlined planning process; (3) non-time-critical removals would require EPA to spend more time overseeing cleanup contracts and shift costs from states to EPA; (4) non-time-critical removals are a potentially useful tool in cleaning up portions of most of the 3,000 sites in the EPA Superfund inventory; (5) non-time-critical removals have not been used for a wide variety of cleanups because most Superfund cleanup funding has been spent on emergency removals; (6) additional factors that have limited non-time-critical removal use include EPA inability to shift funds between accounts and regions, and statutory limits on the duration and cost of non-time-critical removals; and (7) the proposed Superfund reauthorization legislation would ease the statutory limitations on non-time-critical removals.

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