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Solid Waste and Emergency Response

Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse

Nationwide, there are thousands of Federal facilities that are contaminated with hazardous substances, hazardous waste, military munitions, radioactive waste, and a variety of other toxic contaminants. These facilities include various types of sites, including active, realigning and closed military installations; nuclear weapons production facilities; abandoned mines; landfills and Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS).

CERCLA § 120 states the general principle that Federal agencies must comply with substantive and procedural CERCLA requirements to the same extent as private entities. A more in-depth discussion of these requirements can be found at: www.epa.gov/compliance/federalfacilities/index.html. However, there are some differences between the roles and responsibilities of private entities and those of other Federal agencies. For example, Executive Order 12580 delegates the authority to conduct certain cleanups under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to Federal agencies. EPA provides oversight of these Federal facility cleanups to ensure that requirements are met under CERCLA and the National Contingency Plan (NCP). EPA oversight ensures that the Federal agencies are conducting cleanup in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

In addition, when a Federal facility is listed on the NPL, CERCLA Section 120(e) requires the Federal agency to commence a Remedial Investigation / Feasibility Study (RI/FS) within six months of listing to determine the nature and extent of contamination. Upon review of the RI/FS, CERCLA also requires that Federal agencies enter into an interagency agreement (IAG) with EPA, and, in many instances, the state. The IAG is commonly known as a “Federal Facility Agreement” (FFA). FFAs/IAGs are legal agreements which set forth detailed requirements for performance of site response activities as well as penalties for noncompliance.

EPA also works with other Federal agencies to facilitate the reuse of closed Federal facilities so they can once again serve an important role in the economy and welfare of local communities. In particular, EPA works as a team with the Department of Defense (DoD) and states on installations closed under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) to expedite property transfer.

Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Activities:
Oversight of other Federal agency cleanup under CERCLA

Why Community Engagement Improves Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse:

Because communities have a right to know what is happening in their neighborhoods, communities should be apprised of, and afforded the opportunity to participate in, cleanups. Communities have specific interests in cleanup decisions and should have the option of being involved in all phases of the cleanup at Federal facility sites . Such participation would help ensure that contamination is found and cleaned up to protect human health and the environment – now and in the future. It is also helpful for communities to provide their views regarding how the cleanup will be conducted . They should further understand how a cleanup may affect community plans and goals.

Community members, former employees, and local government officials may be able to provide valuable information about a hazardous waste site that can help determine the best way to clean it up. Local information can help determine the location of contamination, how people may be exposed to the contamination, and how the land may be used after it is cleaned up. If contamination will be managed at the site for long periods of time, the communities and local governments should be consulted about how to apply institutional controls to prevent human exposures. Community members also may be able to provide information that will help monitor the effectiveness of the cleanup over the long-term such as reporting trespassing, flooding, odors or other unusual conditions.

We want your feedback about how we involve communities in the Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse activities. Please share your experiences with these processes and your ideas for improvement.

Oversight of other Federal agency cleanup under CERCLA

The Federal Facilities Response program conducts oversight at National Priority List (NPL) sites where cleanup is being done by other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. At the Headquarters level, the Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office focuses on policy development and implementation, and issues of national significance. There are Federal Facilities program offices in each of EPA's 10 regions. The regional personnel provide the site-specific regulatory oversight. Also at the Headquarters level, the Federal Facility Enforcement Office (FFEO) is responsible for ensuring that Federal facilities take all necessary actions to prevent, control and abate environmental pollution. FFEO works with Federal Facility Program Managers in all of the Regions to facilitate Federal facilities’ compliance with their CERCLA responsibilities, to help negotiate CERCLA interagency agreements, to help resolve CERCLA disputes, and to support enforcement actions, where appropriate.

Oversight responsibilities include:

  • Review and approve preliminary assessments (evaluating releases of hazardous substances). Use results to rank Federal Facility sites for inclusion on the National Priorities List (NPL).
  • Review site investigations, including environmental data.
  • Review and approve Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study for sites placed on the NPL (NPL listing is an EPA decision).
  • At each phase of work, EPA reviews and comments on documents. Under provisions of the FFA, EPA may invoke dispute resolution and assess stipulated penalties to require compliance with the statute and EPA guidance if comments are not addressed.
  • Evaluate risk assessments and may require additional sampling to resolve any uncertainties.
  • Evaluate Feasibility Study to ensure that an adequate range of alternatives is considered, CERCLA criteria for remedy selection are followed, and a preferred alternative is adequately justified.
  • Review Proposed Plan for sufficient evaluation of remedy options and opportunity for public comment.
  • Jointly select cleanup remedy with lead Federal agency , but EPA selects in the event of dispute.
  • Review and approve Remedial Design/Remedial Action documents.
  • Review monitoring reports to ensure remedy is operating properly.
  • Review and approve Remedial Action Completion Reports.
  • Review and approve Five-Year Reviews.

How we involve communities:
Just as the other Federal agencies have lead responsibility for cleanup, they also have the lead responsibility for conducting community involvement activities as required by CERCLA and the NCP. EPA may conduct community involvement activities associated with placing a Federal facility site on the National Priorities List . As part of its oversight responsibilities, EPA reviews the Federal agency’s Community Involvement Plans, Proposed Plans, site-specific fact sheets, and ensures that public notices, public meetings and comment periods meet requirements of CERCLA and the NCP. In addition, EPA participates on Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs) established at DoD installations and the Department of Energy's Site Specific Advisory Boards at eight DOE NPL sites across the country. EPA makes available Technical Assistance Grants (TAGs) and Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) for community groups impacted by NPL sites, including Federal facilities.

Links to More Information:
Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office
Community Resources
US Department of Energy – Advisory Boards and Working Group

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