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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
At a Glance
December 5, 2006
Why We Did This Review
Prior studies have identified
weaknesses in the Superfund
five-year review process.
We evaluated whether the U.S.
Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has improved
the quality, completeness, and
timeliness of five-year reviews,
and what impact the review
process has had on remedies at
Superfund sites.
EPA's Superfund five-year
review process examines the
remedies at hundreds of
Superfund sites where
hazardous substances remain at
levels that potentially pose an
unacceptable risk. The purpose
of the reviews is to determine
whether remedies are, or will
be, protective of human health
and the environment.
For further information, contact
our Office of Congressional and
Public Liaison at (202) 566-2391.
To view the full report,
click on the following link:
Catalyst for Improving the Environment
EPA Has Improved Five-Year Review Process for
Superfund Remedies, But Further Steps Needed
What We Found
Since our last review in 1999, EPA has taken actions to improve the five-year
review process. These actions included issuing the Comprehensive Five-Year
Review Guidance, providing training, and reducing the review backlog. While
these actions have resulted in improvements, EPA needs to take additional steps
to better support and communicate conclusions, continue to improve review
timeliness, and provide fuller assurance that cleanup actions are protective of
human health and the environment.
While we did not conclude that remedies were unsuccessful at achieving
protection of human health and the environment, our evaluation of a random
sample of 39 five-year review reports issued between Fiscal Years 2002 and 2004
showed that:
	21 percent did not fully support their protectiveness conclusions
	21 percent did not provide complete protectiveness conclusions
	21 percent did not have sufficient information to implement
	23 percent did not meet public notification requirements
EPA has not assessed the overall impact of its five-year review process on
implementing and performing remedies because a system to provide complete
information on the results of reviews had not been implemented.
What We Recommend
We recommend that EPA expand the scope of quality assurance reviews of five-
year review reports, and revise guidance to more clearly define short- and long-
term protectiveness determinations. To improve timeliness, we recommend that
EPA evaluate the regions" workloads and available resources for five-year
reviews for meeting due dates. We also recommend that EPA use data in a new
information system module to measure the effectiveness and impacts of five-year
reviews. EPA generally concurred with our recommendations. The Agency will
need to provide further details on its plans to address Office of Inspector General
recommendations within 90 days.