Removal Actions at Long-Term Cleanup Sites
Prior to EPA's regulation of hazardous wastes, much of our country's hazardous wastes were often stored or disposed of improperly -- either in landfills not designed to protect the environment or simply abandoned in open fields or dumped along roadways. In addition, abandoned industrial facilities that used chemicals and other hazardous substances may not have stored or disposed of them properly prior to closing operations. Today, these sites are undergoing long-term cleanup actions which may take several years to fully study the problem, develop the right remedy, and clean up the hazardous waste. These are the sites most people think of when they hear about the Superfund program. As of August 1996, there were over 1200 of these Superfund sites on the National Priorities List and undergoing some form of long- term cleanup.
EPA does not ignore the possibility that serious immediate threats to the environment or to the people who live or work around these sites may need to be taken care of before the long-term action is complete, or even underway. If there are any immediate threats present at these sites, EPA may respond quickly to perform a removal action. EPA removal actions address a wide range of threats, including emergencies, where EPA arrives on-scene within hours, as well as time-critical situations, where a response is needed within 6 months.
A long-term clean-up site may ultimately have several removal actions, or it may have none. In some cases, removal actions eliminate the need for a long-term cleanup at certain portions of the site. As a result, removal actions may speed the cleanup of portions of the site and may lead to early elimination of the site from EPA's long-term clean-up program.