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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency	12-P-0251

#	\ Office of Inspector General	February6 2012
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At a Glance
Why We Did This Review
We evaluated the Office of
Solid Waste and Emergency
Response (OSWER)
management controls to ensure
Superfund Five-Year Reviews
(FYRs) are thorough, meet
policy, and lead to well-
supported determinations that
accurately report how well
cleanup remedies protect
human health and the
In 2007, OSWER set a goal of
reviewing at least 75 percent of
EPA regions" draft FYR reports
to improve quality and
consistency. OSWER's Office
of Superfund Remediation and
Technology Innovation
(OSRTI) reviews the drafts for
private sites. FYRs are required
at sites where remedial action
leaves contaminants at levels
that do not allow for unlimited
use and unrestricted exposure.
Evaluation of the remedy
should be based on and
sufficiently supported by data
and observations.
For further information, contact
our Office of Congressional and
Public Affairs at (202) 566-2391.
The full report is at:
Stronger Management Controls Will Improve
EPA Five-Year Reviews of Superfund Sites
What We Found
The FYR process benefited from OSRTI reviews of draft reports, but
improvements could be made to increase the impact of these reviews. OSRTI's
reviews are intended to ensure protectiveness determinations are accurate,
supported by available information, and consistent in format nationwide. OSRTI
has not established sufficient management controls to make certain that FYR
reports consistently meet quality standards and adhere to guidance. No formal
process is in place to resolve differences when OSRTI and regions disagree on
conclusions before final reports are released to the public. OSRTI reviewers did
not always follow up to determine whether the region implemented
recommendations, and regions sometimes disregarded valid OSRTI comments
that were based on Agency guidance. We found the following cases where
regions did not accept OSRTI's recommendations:
	Not enough recent data were available on site conditions; OSRTI had
recommended that the region defer making a determination until additional
data were collected.
	Data did not support the protectiveness determination; OSRTI had
recommended a less protective determination than stated by the region.
	Construction of remedial actions was initiated at multiple operable units,
but not yet complete; OSRTI had recommended that protectiveness be
determined for each operable unit, consistent with Agency guidance.
	The remedy was declared to be short-term protective in spite of the region
proposing significant follow-up action; OSRTI had recommended a less
protective determination that agreed with the magnitude of the work to be
The lack of controls and procedures for these reviews means that OSRTI does not
know the extent to which the regions implemented its recommendations. As a
result, OSRTI lacks reasonable assurance its oversight is effective.
What We Recommend
We recommend that OSWER establish a process to resolve disagreements with
regions on protectiveness determinations. We also recommend steps to improve
the consistency, thoroughness, and communication of OSRTI reviews and to
better define protectiveness determinations. OSWER agreed to the
recommendations and needs to establish completion dates.