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Highlights

In the 1990s, creosote was discovered under a residential neighborhood in Manville, New Jersey. Creosote, a mixture of chemicals, is used to preserve wood products, such as railroad ties. Some of the chemicals in creosote may cause cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA found that creosote from a former wood-treatment facility (known as the Federal Creosote site) had contaminated soil and groundwater at the site. Under the Superfund program--the federal government's principal program to clean up hazardous waste--EPA assessed site risks, selected remedies, and worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clean up the site. As of May 2009, construction of EPA's remedies for the site had been completed; however, total site costs were almost $340 million and remedial construction costs had exceeded original estimates. In this context, GAO was asked to examine (1) how EPA assessed risks and selected remedies for the site, and what priority EPA gave to site cleanup; (2) what factors contributed to the difference between the estimated and actual costs; and (3) how EPA and the Corps divided responsibilities for site work. GAO analyzed EPA and Corps documents and data on the cleanup effort and its costs, and interviewed officials from these agencies. This report contains no recommendations. EPA generally agreed with GAO's findings on the agency's cleanup costs and actions, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had no comments.

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