Hazardous Waste:

Responsible Party Clean Up Efforts Require Improved Oversight

RCED-86-123: Published: May 6, 1986. Publicly Released: May 6, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed cleanup activities at priority hazardous waste sites, specifically: (1) the number, estimated value, and purpose of settlement agreements between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and responsible parties; and (2) how well EPA is overseeing responsible-party compliance with the settlement terms.

GAO found that: (1) approximately half of the settlements were for long-term site cleanup activities, and cleanup work was valued at $417 million; (2) the purpose of the settlement agreements was to ensure that responsible parties either performed cleanup activities at hazardous waste sites or reimbursed the government for cleanup at the sites; and (3) no formal guidelines or procedures exist for project managers to oversee settlement activities and enforce decisions, causing delays in identifying and resolving problems.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA is taking steps to improve responsible party oversight. Site-by-site contractor support has been provided and a comprehensive system has been developed to track Superfund enforcement information. A longer term effort is underway to develop an oversight guidance manual. Staff turnover has delayed completion of these efforts.

    Recommendation: To adequately ensure that responsible parties comply with settlement conditions and cleanup goals, the Administrator, EPA, should strengthen the EPA settlement oversight function by providing project managers with: (1) guidance and procedures on work-load management, how to organize, prioritize, and perform duties and responsibilities, and how to use quality assurance reviews; and (2) procedures and standards for oversight recordkeeping and reporting, determining settlement noncompliance, and taking appropriate enforcement actions.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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