EPA's Progress in Implementing the Superfund Program

Gao ID: 118880 July 9, 1982

The Superfund legislation provides for a $1.6 billion fund to be accumulated from taxes on petroleum and certain chemicals and federal appropriations over the fiscal year 1981-85 period. The fund is to be used by the federal and state governments to clean up spilled toxic wastes and hazardous waste sites where the responsible party does not take appropriate action. Subsequently, efforts may be made to recover cleanup costs from the responsible party. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implementation of the Superfund Program has been hampered by a lack of final policies and guidance. EPA missed the congressionally mandated due date for publishing a revised national contingency plan and only recently issued final cooperative agreement guidance. Although the legislation required a national priority list of at least 400 sites by June 1981, EPA was only able to provide an interim list of 115 sites by October 1981. The process which EPA used to develop this list demonstrated a lack of nationwide consistency in applying this scoring system to sites, and both EPA and state personnel should be provided additional training and guidance in applying the system. In addition, EPA still lacks a national inventory of the total number of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites existing in the nation. The administration has not required the funding, and thousands of sites which have been identified or reported to EPA have not been assessed or examined. Until a national inventory is compiled and all identified or reported sites are assessed or examined, the full extent of the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste site problem will remain unknown. EPA should request the funding to develop such an inventory and conduct preliminary assessments at all identified or reported, but unassessed, hazardous waste sites. Eighteen months after the Superfund was enacted, there were few Superfund-financed remedial action accomplishments. In fact, Superfund obligations lag far behind the spending levels appropriated by Congress.

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