Issues That Need To Be Addressed Before the Program's Next Reauthorization

T-RCED-92-15: Published: Oct 29, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 29, 1991.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund Program, focusing on: (1) the pace of site cleanups; (2) how Superfund costs can be better controlled; (3) whether completed cleanups will successfully protect human health and the environment; and (4) the risks of Superfund sites to human health and the environment. GAO noted that: (1) after 11 years, EPA has finished cleanups at only 63 of the current 1,245 Superfund sites, and clean-up work is underway at an additional 353 sites; (2) to avoid an ever-growing backlog of sites, EPA needs to shorten clean-up study and construction time; (3) only 30 percent of the $7.5 billion total Superfund expenditures through fiscal year 1990 went for actual cleanup operations; (4) EPA has not corrected the problem of excessive contractor indemnification; (5) most Superfund contractors work under cost-reimbursable contracts that promise to pay all of a contractor's allowable cost and provide little incentive for contractors to control their costs; (6) although potential Superfund liability may have made hazardous waste handlers more careful about waste disposal, some Superfund cases have become difficult and time consuming to resolve due to the number of parties involved; (7) with EPA projecting that it will clean up 200 sites by the end of 1993 and 650 by 2000, it needs to focus greater attention on the success of remedies at permanently eliminating or controlling contamination; and (8) EPA has not adequately defined the risks of Superfund sites to human health and the environment.

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