SuperfundStatus, Cost, and Timeliness of Hazardous Waste Site Cleanups Gao ID: RCED-94-256 September 21, 1994
In fiscal years 1987-93, 60 percent of the $10 billion earmarked for the Superfund program went to the contractors to perform site cleanups. The largest portion of cleanup spending went toward remedial or long-term cleanup efforts, including site studies, remedial designs, and construction of the cleanup remedy. During this period, spending on the construction phase overtook spending for site studies. Forty percent of the funds obligated for construction went to 13 sites--just seven percent of the sites receiving such funding during the period. Although cleanup work has been fully completed for only 52 sites, about half of the 1,320 Superfund sites have moved beyond the initial study phase and into the design and construction phases of the cleanup. Nevertheless, 150 of the sites that have been in the Superfund program for at least eight years have not progressed beyond the initial study phase; at nine of these sites, the study phase has not yet begun. GAO's analysis of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data shows little time difference in the cleanup work financed by EPA and that financed by parties responsible for the contamination. Attorneys at the Justice Department and EPA believe that the limits on the timing of judicial review of EPA's cleanup decisions have been effective in discouraging or quickly eliminating legal challenges that might otherwise have delayed cleanups.
GAO found that: (1) 60 percent of Superfund program funding went to contractors that performed site cleanups; (2) the largest portion of cleanup spending went toward remedial or long-term cleanup activities including site studies, remedial designs, and cleanup construction; (3) spending for the construction phase overtook spending for site studies and increased from 46 to 78 percent of Superfund cleanup spending; (4) 40 percent of the construction funds went to 13 sites; (5) although EPA has completed cleanup at only 52 sites, about half of the 1,320 Superfund sites have been moved beyond the initial study phase and into the design and construction cleanup phases; (6) 150 sites that have been in the Superfund program for at least 8 years have not progressed beyond the initial study phase and at 9 of these sites, the study phase has not begun; (7) progress at federal facilities has lagged behind progress at nonfederal sites; (8) there has been no difference in EPA-financed or responsible party-financed cleanup efforts, but neither party has met current EPA work completion goals; (9) Department of Justice and EPA attorneys believe that the time limits on judicial reviews of EPA cleanup decisions have effectively discouraged or eliminated legal challenges that have delayed Superfund cleanups; and (10) only three site cleanups have been delayed by legal challenges, since Congress limited judicial reviews in 1986.Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.Director: Team: Phone: