Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Comments Wanted On Superfund Alternative Approach Report

Oct 3: The U.S. EPA announced the release of a report entitled, Results of the Superfund Alternative Approach Evaluation, for public review [72 FR 56346-56347]. The Superfund Alternative Approach is an alternative to listing a contaminated site on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) before starting cleanup. Comments on the report and SA approach must be received by December 3, 2007.

In June 2002, EPA issued a guidance document titled, "Response Selection and Enforcement Approach for Superfund Alternative Sites" (the "SAS Guidance"). The guidance addressed technical and enforcement issues for sites using the Superfund Alternative (SA) approach -- sites that require long-term response (i.e., remedial action) and are eligible for, but are not listed on, the National Priorities List (NPL). Because Superfund monies cannot be used to fund remedial actions at sites not listed on the NPL, a viable potentially responsible party (PRP) must be willing to perform the remedial action.

When the SAS Guidance was revised and reissued in June 2004 (the "Revised SAS Guidance"), EPA announced it would pilot the SA approach for 18 months. The Office of Site Remediation Enforcement (OSRE) and the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI) were tasked with conducting an evaluation of this pilot to better understand how EPA Regions are implementing the SA approach, whether it leads to successful site cleanups, and the concerns expressed by stakeholders.

The evaluation focused on sites identified in CERCLIS as SA sites as of February 2005, and on SA agreements signed between June 2002 and December 2005. The evaluation involved several rounds of data gathering and analysis, discussions with stakeholders, and document review. The SA Evaluation Team found that the SA approach yielded 19 agreements with SA provisions during the pilot period. Most of the SA activity took place in Region 4 (Southeast states) and Region 5 (Great Lake states). Generally, the SA agreements use language consistent with the SAS Guidance.

The Team recommends retaining the SA approach as an available option in appropriate circumstances and recommends several specific next steps. The report concludes, "While EPA uses the SA approach in only limited situations, it should be retained as a viable option for consideration in appropriate circumstances. The SA approach is one more tool for cleaning up seriously contaminated sites through agreements with PRPs. However, the Agency can do more to improve consistency in implementing the approach and helping stakeholders understand the process and benefits of the SA approach."

On June 6, 2007, U.S. EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a new report entitled, EPA Needs to Take More Action in Implementing Alternative Approaches to Superfund Cleanups (Report No. 2007-P-00026, June 6, 2007) [See WIMS 6/7/07]. The report evaluated the Superfund Alternative sites approach. Among other items, OIG found that EPA had not implemented effective management tools or controls for the SA approach. OIG recommended that EPA track and report cleanup progress at SA sites, and improve its communications, information, and transparency about the SA approach.

Access the complete 7-page report (
click here). Access the EPA docket, EPA-HQ-OECA-2007-0635, for links to the FR announcement and to comment (click here). Access the complete 45-page OIG report (click here). [*Remed]