Superfund:

EPA Needs to Better Focus Cleanup Technology Development

T-RCED-92-92: Published: Sep 15, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1992.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to foster new treatment technologies to clean up hazardous waste sites, focusing on: (1) innovative technologies that have been demonstrated, selected, or used for Superfund cleanup sites; and (2) EPA efforts to reduce barriers to the development and use of innovative technologies. GAO noted that: (1) EPA has planned 119 field demonstrations of innovative technologies and has completed 59; (2) the selection of innovative technologies for site cleanups has sharply increased since fiscal year 1986, but only 10 percent of cleanup actions have been completed; (3) one barrier to innovative technology development and use involved EPA failure to systematically assess site cleanup needs and match new technologies to specific site requirements, which EPA has attempted to correct by starting to assess its cleanup needs, and discussing technology needs with site-cleanup contractors; (4) contractors and investors were reluctant to use innovative technologies because cost and efficacy data were lacking, and although EPA has tried to assist in collecting and disseminating such data, substantive data are still limited; and (5) legal requirements, regulations, and agency policies discourage contractors from using innovative technologies, and EPA is working on lessening regulatory burdens and providing more facilities for test sites.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has issued a market assessment to determine site problems and technology needs at Superfund, RCRA, UST, DOD, and DOE sites, and extrapolate demand for cleanup technologies.

    Recommendation: To better focus cleanup technology development, the Administrator, EPA, should systematically determine site problems and technology needs for the cleanup of Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and underground storage tank sites.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has issued its market assessment, which is the first step before being able to develop a plan. Although EPA has not yet developed a formal plan, it has broadly disseminated its market assessment which identifies research needs. EPA plans to update the market study for 1995. Additionally, EPA has developed a standard format for use in reporting costs and performance data on completed demonstration and cleanup projects using innovative technologies.

    Recommendation: To better focus cleanup technology development, the Administrator, EPA, should develop a plan that prioritizes cleanup and resulting research needs.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has directed solicitations to seek remedies for DNAPLs in groundwater and metals in soil, but most SITE Program solicitations remain general. Solicitations for specific contaminants and site conditions have been used for problematic situations. Furthermore, the Environmental Technology Initiative now targets its solicitations to areas of priority need, such as pollution prevention.

    Recommendation: To better focus cleanup technology development, the Administrator, EPA, should target solicitations to specific areas in need of technology development.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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