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Round 2-1: PRP Search Pilots

Reform Description
The primary goal of the PRP search pilots was to determine whether the PRP search and notification time line proposed in the Superfund Reform Act (SRA) of 1994 (H.R. 4916, 103rd Congress) can be accomplished through completion of early PRP Searches.

Get more information on H.R. 4916. exit EPA

In addition, EPA piloted several techniques developed to streamline and improve the PRP Search process.

Piloted streamlining techniques included:
  • Exploring the use of radio announcements, newspaper advertising, and toll free telephone numbers to solicit information about PRPs from the public;
  • Conducting early interviews of parties to obtain information and minimize the need for multiple rounds of information requests; and
  • Establishing a publicly available repository for PRP Search information to assist PRPs in identifying other PRPs earlier in the enforcement process.

Reform Status
check mark Implementation of this reform is complete.

The Agency incorporated into the program lessons learned from this reform through the issuance of PRP Search Pilots: Lessons Learned and Recommendations: Memorandum (PDF, 6 pages, 7.2MB) on September 29, 1998. This reform is now considered closed out because the pilot program was completed and no further accomplishment information will be gathered.

The PRP Search Enhancement Team and EPA Regions will continue to perform a number of tasks, including:
  • Sponsoring a national PRP Search Enhancement Conference;
  • Developing a national enforcement network to facilitate information sharing efforts;
  • Developing fact sheets and checklists to assist Regional search staff on subjects such as:
    • Parameters for PRP Involvement in PRP Searches
    • Corporate Successor/Parent-Subsidiary Issues
    • On-Line Resources for PRP Searches
    • Information Request Letter Tracking and Follow-up
    • Removal Search Activities
  • Developing best practices;
  • Incorporating PRP search enhancement concepts in all relevant Superfund enforcement training programs and materials;
  • Developing PRP search guidance materials;
  • Incorporating lessons learned into the program.

In the Spring of 1995, 15 candidate sites were identified where PRP searches had just begun or were about to be initiated:
  • Somersworth Sanitary Landfill (Region 1)
  • Bayonne Barrel & Drum (Region 2)
  • Spectron, Inc.(Region 3)
  • Sauer Dump(Region 3)
  • Divex, Inc.(Region 4)
  • B & E Landfill (Region 5)
  • Old World Trade Center (Region 5)
  • Pierce Oil (Region 5)
  • Bayou D'Inde (Region 6)
  • Great Lakes Containers (Region 7)
  • Ogallala Groundwater Supply (Region 7)
  • RAMP Industries (Region 8)
  • Agri-Serve (Region 9)
  • Central Eureka (Region 9)
  • Spokane Dump (Region 10)

These pilots have now been completed. To test the relevant provisions contained in SRA, each pilot site was set up to conform as nearly as possible to a time frame that would lead to notification of potential de minimis parties within 12 months after the search start and notification of all other parties within 18 months after the search start. Additionally, each pilot tested one or more streamlining techniques identified during a national PRP search conference.

Several streamlining techniques were found to be beneficial and improved PRP searches. At one site, use of the new model information request letter was instrumental in identifying 150 additional parties early in the search process. At another site, an early interview led to valuable information about other parties, and assisted in a better understanding of business practices contributing to contamination of that site. Also, the use of a publicly available repository for PRP search information was very helpful in providing valuable information to PRPs and a local community group, and led to nomination of additional parties earlier in the search process.

PRP searches at the 15 piloted sites varied widely in their duration and scope, resulting from variation in site size, the number of PRPs, nature and extent of contamination, available documentation, and level of State involvement.

None of the 13 sites that had potential de minimis parties notified those parties within 12 months of the search start date. Five sites made the deadline for notifying all other parties within 18 months of the search start date. The results of the PRP search pilots, as well as previous PRP search improvement efforts and evaluations, serve as a building block for EPA's efforts currently underway to enhance PRP searches.

In addition, EPA's Office of Site Remediation Enforcement (OSRE) formed the national PRP Search Enhancement Team (Team) in early 1997. The Team has worked closely with Regional PRP search staff to identify, develop, and prioritize a number of tasks designed to support and promote an enhanced PRP search process.

Lessons Learned
The SRA goal of notifying de minimis parties within 12 months and other PRPs within 18 months of the search start is unrealistic for most Superfund sites. SRA time frames were too ambitious for the piloted sites, and would most likely be too ambitious for a majority of Superfund sites.

Although the causes of difficulty in adhering to the SRA time line were numerous and often site-specific, three factors were common to a number of sites:
  1. Complex sites
  2. Troublesome hazardous substances (i.e., mixed radioactive waste)
  3. Uncooperative PRPs

The five pilot sites where the 18 month goal was met generally had fewer PRPs and no significant complications. Given ideal circumstances, it appears that some PRP searches can meet the SRA time frames. However, it seems unlikely that PRP searches at larger, more complex sites can regularly be completed this quickly.

Early interviews of people with knowledge of a site was the technique most commonly cited as being effective in increasing the speed and efficiency of PRP searches. Consideration should be given to devoting more resources to interviews at an early date, particularly by making civil investigators available early in the PRP search process.

In sum, it is important to recognize the balance between speed and comprehensiveness in the PRP search process, and, understanding that balance, make appropriate decisions on a site-specific basis.

Title: Memorandum: PRP Search Pilots: Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Date: September 29, 1998
Synopsis: This memorandum shares regional experience with the PRP Search Pilots and relays valuable ideas that should be incorporated into new and ongoing searches for PRPs. Title:Transmittal of Sample Documents for More Effective Communication in CERCLA Section 104(e)(2) Information Requests
Date: June 30, 1995
Synopsis: This document contains sample initial information request letters and sample instructions to recipients for responding to information request letters. These documents more effectively convey EPA's initial information requests to recipients and encourage a more complete response from the recipients of the letters.

Title: Regional Pilot Participant Resource Package
Date: June 1, 1995
Synopsis: The package is a resource for pilot participants and includes the following materials: new sample information request letters; a sample newspaper advertisement seeking additional information about PRPs; 1988 and 1991 guidance and sample language on the use and issuance of administrative subpoenas; tips on establishing a public repository for PRP search information; the use of Rule 27 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to take depositions before a complaint is filed; and guidance on using statements taken by civil investigators.(NOTE: This document is no longer in use.)

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