Washington, DC- U.S. Senators Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., and Barbara Boxer, D-Cal., today released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluding that the EPA needs to establish more effective mechanisms to protect communities from exposure to toxic contamination. At the vast majority of hazardous waste sites, according to the report, EPA failed to adequately implement, monitor or enforce remedies necessary to minimize exposure to contamination left on-site after the cleanup was completed. “Having successfully cleaned up thousands of highly toxic sites, it is unacceptable for EPA to walk away without ensuring that future generations will be protected from the residual contamination,” Sen. Jeffords said. “As this report indicates, EPA must do a better job of implementing, monitoring, and enforcing institutional controls to safeguard our communities before, during and after clean-up.” "I am very concerned that the EPA is not doing its job of cleaning up these sites in the first place and is relying more and more on land use restrictions," said Sen. Boxer. "In addition, the Agency is not even following up to see that the public is protected by enforcing these restrictions." The report, requested by Senators Jeffords and Boxer found that EPA increasingly adopts cleanup remedies that rely on institutional controls, such as groundwater use restrictions or local zoning, to minimize future exposure to hazardous waste rather than requiring more expensive cleanups that would enable unrestricted use of the property. At the overwhelming majority of sites examined, EPA remedy decision documents failed to identify how the institutional controls would be implemented, monitored or enforced. Specifically, GAO found that: · Two-thirds of the older hazardous waste sites reviewed by GAO where residual contamination remained in place after cleanup lacked ANY institutional controls to minimize future exposure.
· 82 of 93 recent Superfund remedy decision documents fail to identify who is responsible for monitoring institutional controls.
· 11 of 15 recent Resource Conservation and Recovery Act remedy decision documents fail to identify who is responsible for enforcing institutional controls.
The report, titled “Hazardous Waste: Improved Effectiveness of Controls at Sites Could Better Protect the Public,” can be found at http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-163.