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Policy

Superfund Alternatives Need Better Guidance

by Glenn Hess
May 20, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 20

EPA has failed to sufficiently monitor nearly 2,000 hazardous waste sites that it has identified as eligible for cleanup under the federal Superfund program, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. In a report (GAO-13-252) released on May 10, GAO finds that EPA is not properly tracking and documenting the cleanup process at these waste dumps. EPA has identified 3,402 contaminated sites as potentially eligible for cleanup; of these, the agency has deferred oversight of 1,984 sites to parties outside the Superfund program, GAO says. EPA may defer oversight through its “other cleanup activity” approach, which allows states, private parties, or other federal agencies to oversee cleanup activities. But EPA hasn’t issued remediation guidelines for these sites, according to the report. GAO recommends that EPA issue guidance to its regional offices that clearly defines the alternative cleanup approach. The report also says the agency should develop a method for identifying and tracking cleanups performed outside the Superfund program.

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