Hazardous Waste:

Time and Costs to Clean Up Superfund Sites Are Uncertain

RCED-99-186R: Published: Jun 11, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to clean up its Superfund sites, focusing on: (1) how long it will take to complete the construction of cleanup facilities at hazardous waste sites on the National Priorities List as of early 1999; and (2) how much it will cost.

GAO noted that: (1) as of March 1999, cleanup facilities had been constructed at 599 sites on the National Priorities List; (2) EPA's goal is to complete, by the end of 2005, the construction of cleanup facilities at about 85 percent of the almost 1,400 sites that have been placed on the National Priorities List; (3) to achieve this goal, EPA expects cleanup facilities to be constructed at about 595 additional sites between early 1999 and the end of 2005, at an average rate of 85 sites each year; (4) EPA believes that completing construction at some of the remaining 15 percent of the sites, including some federal facilities, could take well beyond 2005; (5) EPA could not provide a reliable estimate of the costs to construct cleanup facilities at existing Superfund sites; (6) EPA has not released updated estimates of future Superfund program costs since 1994; (7) although EPA is in the process of revising these cost estimates, they were not yet final as of May 1999; and (8) EPA requested $593 million to construct cleanup facilities at Superfund sites for fiscal year 2000; this funding level would amount to about $3.6 billion for fiscal years 2000 through 2005, assuming the same annual funding.

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