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Conditions & Capacity

Three primary programs have shaped the nation’s hazardous waste infrastructure: Superfund, RCRA, and Brownfields. Each of these three programs plays a distinct and important role in the overall infrastructure that manages hazardous waste. As evidence of the importance of maintaining and strengthening the nation’s hazardous waste infrastructure, more than half of the U.S. population lives within three miles of a hazardous waste site. Over 18,000 sites and an associated 22 million acres of land are addressed through these three programs.

Conditions & Capacity

Funding & Future Need

Approximately 70% of Superfund cleanup activities historically have been paid for by parties responsible (PRPs) for the cleanup of contamination. Until the mid-1990s, most of the funding for cleanup activities led by the government (where there was no PRP to pay for cleanup) came from a tax on the petroleum and chemical industries. Currently, virtually all funding for government-led cleanup sites under Superfund comes from general revenues or special accounts funded through settlements with PRPs. The Superfund program has experienced flat or declining budgets since 2009. Drilling down in the FY 2016 and proposed 2017 budgets, there is a modest proposed increase in the Superfund budget, with largest increase for the remedial response program, which is used to fund long-term cleanup actions. The performance of the Superfund program can be evaluated in the pace at which NPL actions are taken and the key milestones are achieved.

Funding & Future Need
$7 Billion
Investment Needed
$4 Billion
Funding Provided
Hazardous & Solid Waste Funding

Public Safety & Resilience

Impacts of more intense storms, increased flooding, and rising sea levels may jeopardize a large number of constructed remedies at Superfund sites. EPA’s inventory of Superfund sites shows that over 500 Superfund sites are within a 100-year floodplain or at an elevation less than six feet above mean sea level, and it is likely that a portion of the engineered systems in place at these sites are vulnerable.

Public Safety & Resilience

Raising the Grades

Solutions that Work Now
  • Emphasize a robust technical focus and increased, stable, designated funding source for mining site cleanup, which already consumes a large percentage of the Superfund budget, and continue to be a major source of contamination and environmental degradation.
  • Expand Brownfield grant programs to support investment in pre-development site characterization activities, increasing leverage and stimulating greater investment from state, regional, local, and private funding sources.
  • Recognizing that an effective waste management system is a critical “enabler” of the manufacturing economy, the RCRA program should focus on better permit status tracking, reducing the paper burden on regulated facilities, improvements and greater reliance on electronic reporting, growing the technical assistance and accessibility of the permitting process, and accelerated permit reviews.
  • Further research on more sustainable, cost effective remedial approaches for mining sites.
  • Investment in technology to optimize and improve efficiency of groundwater treatment systems.
  • Investment in technology and guidance to address threats from vapor intrusion at Superfund sites.
  • Address staff shortages and training gaps in the Superfund program and procurement function.
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