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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
At a Glance
June 17,2014
Why We Did This Review
We conducted this review to
determine how the U.S.
Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has addressed
the sites in its August 2012
Lead Smelter Strategy. The
2012 Strategy focuses on 464
historical lead smelter sites
identified in 2001, also known
as "Eckel sites." We also
examined the actions the EPA
has taken to inform
communities near the Eckel
sites of potential lead
The Eckel sites are located
across the country primarily in
urban areas. The EPA's
Superfund site assessment
process, used to assess sites
like the Eckel sites, was
designed to evaluate potential
hazardous waste sites that may
pose a threat to human health
and the environment and to
determine if a site may warrant
cleanup attention. The EPA
developed its 2012 Lead
Smelter Strategy to ensure that
all Eckel sites would be
This report addresses the
following EPA goal or
cross-agency strategy:
 Cleaning up communities
and advancing sustainable
For further information,
contact our public affairs office
at (202) 566-2391.
The full report is at:
EPA Has Made Progress in Assessing
Historical Lead Smelter Sites But Needs to
Strengthen Procedures
What We Found
Improvements in guidance and
procedures for managing
contaminated sites could result
in more efficient and effective
use of limited resources and
result in public health and
economic benefits.
It took the EPA more than 12 years to
complete the preliminary site assessment
work at the 464 Eckel sites. According to the
Office of Solid Waste and Emergency
Response, when the EPA learned of the
Eckel sites in 2001, it distributed the list to
regional offices for informational purposes
only. Because the Eckel sites were not
submitted to the EPA through the public petition process, there were no
acceptance criteria or time limits for screening and assessment of the sites. The
EPA's ability to work on the Eckel sites was also impacted by an existing backlog
of over 2,200 potentially contaminated sites. As a result, the EPA's regional
efforts to assess the Eckel sites were inconsistent. The overall absence of a
process for the Eckel sites and other non-petitioned sites, as well as a lack of
initial direction from the EPA, led to the inefficient use of agency resources.
In addition, we found that the EPA lacked sufficient tracking, transparency and
guidance on technical aspects of addressing the Eckel sites. Further, the EPA did
not effectively convey to the public the details concerning its lengthy efforts and
the challenges it faced in addressing the Eckel sites. Although the EPA has made
progress in addressing the Eckel sites, the EPA's breakdown in applying
standard, transparent criteria and guidance for assessing the sites resulted in
inefficiencies in the site assessment process and impacted the EPA's credibility
regarding its management of the Eckel sites. Specifically, improvements in
guidance and procedures for managing contaminated sites could result in more
efficient and effective use of limited resources, as well as have public health and
economic benefits.
Recommendations and Corrective Actions
We recommend that the EPA establish a clear process for handling potentially
contaminated sites not referred to the EPA by a public petition, and that the EPA
re-evaluate guidance to ensure that regions are able to efficiently spend
resources addressing the highest priority sites. To increase transparency and
public awareness of the EPA's efforts, we recommend the publication of the
EPA's 2012 strategy document and any subsequent findings. The EPA agreed
with our recommendations and provided acceptable corrective actions. The
recommendations are resolved with corrective actions underway.