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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency	09-P-0144
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Office of Inspector General
At a Glance
Catalyst for Improving the Environment
Why We Did This Review
We evaluated the U.S.
Environmental Protection
Agency's (EPA's) Superfund cost
recovery at a sample of non-
National Priority List (NPL)
removal sites. The objectives
were to determine what internal
controls EPA uses to (1) monitor
cost recovery, (2) ensure
potentially responsible party
searches are completed and
documented, (3) monitor costs
attributed to generic site codes,
(4) ensure removal milestones are
documented in the Superfund
database, and (5) ensure accurate
cost recovery data.
The Comprehensive
Environmental Response,
Compensation, and Liability Act
(CERCLA, also known as
Superfund) authorizes EPA to
address releases of hazardous
substances that require a rapid
response. These actions (called
removal actions) often require
EPA to pay for cleanup costs
before identifying a responsible
party. CERCLA authorizes EPA
to recover these costs.
For further information, contact
our Office of Congressional,
Public Affairs and Management
at (202) 566-2391.
To view the full report,
click on the following link:
EPA Needs to Improve Internal Controls to
Increase Cost Recovery
What We Found
Within a sample of removal actions we reviewed, EPA collected from
responsible parties approximately 11 percent ($31.4 of $294.5 million) of the
Federal Government's costs for conducting the removal actions. According to
EPA, about another 30 percent ($86 million) of the costs are pending further
government action. EPA attributed most of the remaining $177.1 million of
unrecovered costs to a lack of viable potentially responsible parties (PRPs).
EPA has a control for monitoring the statute of limitations (SOL) on cost
recovery. EPA reports show that the Agency has a high rate of success in
addressing cost recovery requirements prior to the expiration of the SOL.
However, EPA has limited controls in other key areas that affect its ability to
recover the government's costs from responsible parties. These include limited
oversight of PRP searches, inconsistent documentation of PRP searches, and
data quality problems in EPA databases that track Superfund cleanup status and
cost recovery. EPA also does not review and monitor charges made to all
Superfund accounts so all appropriate site costs can be recovered. A sample of
Superfund accounts used to capture removal costs shows as much as
$25 million that EPA could potentially pursue for cost recovery, but has not.
What We Recommend
We recommend that EPA implement improved controls to (1) monitor PRP
search completions, (2) document PRP searches consistently, (3) ensure data
quality in EPA databases, and (4) review all appropriate Superfund accounts to
ensure the government's costs are identified for possible recovery. EPA
concurred with our recommendations with minor qualifications, and has
proposed actions to address them. All recommendations are open with
agreed-to actions pending. In its final response to this report, EPA should
provide estimated or actual completion dates for recommendations 2-1 through
2-4; 3-1 and 3-2; and 4-1 through 4-3.