EPA Has Identified Limited Alternatives to Incineration for Cleaning Up PCB And Dioxin Contamination

RCED-96-13: Published: Dec 29, 1995. Publicly Released: Jan 16, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to encourage the development and use of innovative technologies at contaminated sites, focusing on: (1) whether EPA has identified innovative technologies that can be used at polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dioxin-contaminated sites; and (2) what factors have limited the use of innovative technologies at PCB and dioxin contaminated sites.

GAO found that EPA has: (1) chosen innovative technologies in about 20 percent of its cleanup decisions and has used innovative treatment technologies at 10 percent of the PCB-contaminated sites and 3 percent of the dioxin-contaminated sites; (2) not identified any innovative technologies that it believes to be as effective as incineration for treating waste at PCB or dioxin contaminated Superfund sites; (3) recognized that some of its previous cleanup decisions should be reevaluated to take advantage of recent technological advancements; and (4) identified a number of barriers that inhibit the development and use of innovative technologies at Superfund sites, including the inability of innovative technologies to meet incineration performance standards, technical limitations, limited cost and performance data, and the lack of incentives to encourage technology development.

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