Information on the Status of Sites

RCED-98-241: Published: Aug 28, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1998.

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Peter F. Guerrero
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the status of sites on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Priorities List (NPL), focusing on the: (1) progress the Superfund program has made in selecting remedies at both federal and nonfederal sites; (2) accuracy of the information in the Superfund database on sites' cleanup progress; and (3) number of cleanup projects that cannot be started in FY 1998 because of a lack of funding.

GAO noted that: (1) as of September 30, 1997, EPA had completed the selection of cleanup remedies at about 70 percent of the 1,327 NPL sites listed as of that date that were expected to require a Superfund remedy; (2) no remedies had been selected at 13 percent of the sites; (3) EPA had selected 1,925 remedies at NPL sites and planned to select another 828 remedies; (4) remedy selection at federal sites has lagged behind selection at nonfederal sites because, according to EPA officials, many of the federal sites present more complex cleanup problems and were added to the NPL after nonfederal sites; (5) at the end of FY 1997, EPA had completed remedy selection for about 76 percent of the nonfederal sites and for about 23 percent of the federal sites; (6) EPA plans to complete remedy selection at an additional 19 percent of nonfederal sites and an additional 44 percent of federal sites by the end of FY 1999; (7) if these plans are realized, EPA will have completed remedy selection at about 95 percent of the nonfederal sites and about 67 percent of the federal sites that were listed as of September 30, 1997; (8) GAO tested the accuracy of the data in EPA's Superfund database on the progress of sites through the cleanup process for a statistically random sample of 98 NPL sites; (9) GAO estimates that the cleanup status of NPL sites reported by the Superfund database as of September 30, 1997, was accurate for 95 percent of the sites; (10) GAO found that this database incorrectly recorded the status of cleanup work at five sampled sites; (11) two of these sites had not progressed as far as the database indicated, two other sites had progressed beyond the cleanup phase indicated by the database, and at the fifth site, an action had been classified incorrectly; (12) EPA identified 46 sites that could start cleanup actions requiring Superfund financing in FY 1998 at an estimated cost of about $263 million; (13) EPA officials expected to have about $100 million available for new actions, an amount that they said could fund up to 20 sites; (14) as a result of this anticipated funding shortfall, at least 26 sites could be ready for cleanup but have no work begun in FY 1998; and (15) the amount of funds that proves to be available for cleanup by the end of the fiscal year and the number and the identity of sites ready for funding could vary from EPA's estimates, depending on the funding demands of competing Superfund activities, the progress of sites toward completing cleanup design, and other factors.

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