Cleanups Nearing Completion, Future Challenges, and Possible Cleanup Approaches

T-RCED-93-69: Published: Sep 9, 1993. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 1993.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) progress in cleaning up hazardous waste sites, focusing on: (1) future site clean-up challenges; and (2) possible clean-up approaches. GAO noted that: (1) EPA and responsible parties have removed significant amounts of hazardous waste from 149 sites on the National Priorities List (NPL) or reported as construction-complete; (2) EPA could better inform the public and Congress on a site's true status if it differentiates between sites that protect human health and the environment and those that require further remediation to achieve their clean-up objectives; (3) the remaining Superfund sites will probably be more costly to cleanup because they are more complex and require more extensive clean-up efforts; (4) EPA, states, and responsible parties will incur significant oversight, operation, and maintenance costs at many former NPL and construction-complete sites where untreated wastes remain; (5) oversight and funding problems will increase as the number of Superfund sites increase; (6) there is no consensus on how much cleanup is appropriate; (7) clean-up methods will depend on how EPA protects human health and the environment and sets clean-up standards at the sites; (8) possible clean-up approaches include uniform national clean-up standards, site-specific risk assessments, and treatment of immediate risks and delay of full cleanup; and (9) each clean-up approach has limitations due to the lack of scientific data and public acceptance.

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