Status of the General Accounting Office Reviews Concerning EPA's Superfund Activities

Published: Mar 1, 1984. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 1984.

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Testimony was given concerning GAO reviews of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund program which focused on: (1) state experiences with waste-end taxes and some of the implementation problems that might be encountered if there were a similar federal tax; (2) the EPA estimate of the cost to clean up the nation's worst hazardous waste sites; (3) the success of the Superfund removal program in responding to immediate hazardous waste threats; and (4) the progress being made by EPA to clean up three hazardous waste sites. The objectives of the waste-end tax systems of three states are to raise revenue to finance the cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites and encourage desirable waste management practices. GAO found that none of the three states have collected the revenue that they anticipated. Furthermore, GAO could not determine how successful the states have been in encouraging desirable waste management practices because of a lack of data and analysis. The successful implementation of a federal waste-end tax will require more information than is now available. EPA has estimated that 1,400 to 2,200 of the nation's most hazardous waste sites will likely require cleanup at a cost between $8.4 and $16 billion. However, GAO stated that these estimates are based upon assumptions that are difficult to confirm. GAO found that the Superfund removal responses may not represent the best use of limited resources, address the identified hazards effectively, or support long-term cleanup goals. Finally, GAO found that the site cleanup work at three National Priority List sites which predated Superfund is still not completed because a cleanup feasibility study has to be redone, additional studies are needed, and there has been incomplete waste removal and delayed fencing. Although the National Contingency Plan states that the cleanup actions selected should be cost effective, there is a lack of environmental standards for use in making cost-effectiveness determinations. Absent cleanup standards, GAO was unable to determine if the most cost-effective remedies are being selected.