Implications of State Cleanups of Hazardous Waste Sites on Federal Policy

Gao ID: T-RCED-90-5 November 7, 1989

GAO reviewed state cleanups of hazardous waste sites not included under the federal Superfund program, focusing on: (1) state cleanup progress; (2) whether state cleanup levels and remedies met Superfund standards; and (3) the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed policy to turn over cleanup of some Superfund sites to states. GAO found that: (1) although most states have accomplished few cleanups, others have enacted tough cleanup laws, committed relatively large resources to cleanup efforts, and achieved considerable results; (2) of the reported 28,000 known or suspected hazardous waste sites, states have completed cleanups at about 1,700 and begun work at another 760; (3) at the 17 non-Superfund sites GAO visited, state plans usually specified cleanup levels that were at least as stringent as federal Superfund levels, but states have not set federal standards for over half of the contaminants at those sites; (4) for 11 of the 17 sites, states set cleanup levels on the basis of incomplete risk assessments or without performing them at all; (5) six of the seven states GAO reviewed considered either a single remedy or a limited number of cleanup alternatives; (6) although EPA provided technical assistance to states, states needed more information on cleanup techniques; and (7) the EPA proposal to defer Superfund cleanups to states did not require state cleanups to meet federal cleanup standards or criteria for remedy selection.

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