Estimates of Number of Future Sites Vary

RCED-95-18: Published: Nov 29, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund Program, focusing on: (1) trends in the number of reported hazardous waste sites; (2) EPA evaluation of potential contamination at these sites; and (3) recent estimates of the program's future growth.

GAO found that: (1) the number of sites reported each year has steadily declined since 1985, primarily because the states believe that they can handle cleanups more efficiently and prefer to do the cleanups themselves; (2) states generally report sites that present challenging enforcement or cleanup problems; (3) the percentage of seriously contaminated sites among those reported has remained constant at 43 percent over the past 10 years; (4) EPA officials believe that contamination at newly discovered sites is not less severe, just less obvious; (5) EPA believes 1,700 new federal and nonfederal sites could be added to the National Priorities List through the year 2020; (6) the Congressional Budget Office believes that 3,300 new nonfederal sites could be added to the list through the year 2027; (7) the future Superfund workload could be higher than EPA estimated; and (8) any additions to the Superfund program will be difficult for EPA to manage.

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