Corrective Action History
About Corrective Action
This page describes the history and evolution of the RCRA corrective action program. [Some links in this section are Adobe Acrobat PDF files. About PDF]
The RCRA Corrective Action Program requires investigation and cleanup of releases of hazardous wastes and hazardous constituents that pose an unacceptable risk at RCRA hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities. Facility evaluations, conducted by EPA or the State, are based on human health and environmental risks posed by actual or potential releases to the environment, potential migration pathways, target receptors, and waste characteristics.
The Hazardous and Solid Waste Act of 1984 (HSWA) established statutory provisions to RCRA that gave EPA substantial authority to develop a broader Corrective Action Program. The current program is principally implemented through permits and orders issued under HSWA.
Since 1984, there have been numerous major developments that have continued to shape the Corrective Action Program:
Subpart S Proposal (55 FR 30798, July 27): EPA proposed detailed regulations to govern the technical and procedural elements for implementing RCRA Corrective Action. The Proposal also encouraged project managers to focus on cleanup results and emphasized procedural flexibility. Much of the Proposal was not finalized; instead EPA has issued guidance, policy directives, and related regulations (see 1993, CAMU and TU Regulations), all of which were designed to increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and pace of Corrective Action. See Subpart S Partial Withdrawal dated October 1999.
- Stabilization Initiative (October 25): The Initiative encouraged program implementers to use flexible approaches aimed at near-term activities at many facilities rather than only focusing on final, facility-wide cleanups for relatively few facilities.
- National Corrective Action Prioritization System: NCAPS established a ranking system for facilities subject to Corrective Action by dividing them into high, medium, and low priority categories to help implementers focus on the worst facilities first. Approximately 3600 facilities have already or will undergo Corrective Action, and the division among high, medium, and low priority is 1712, 1100, and 1000, respectively.
Corrective Action Management Unit (CAMU) and Temporary Unit (TU) Regulations (55 FR 8658, February 16): [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] Based on the 1990 Subpart S proposal, the regulations created two new types of units designed to increase flexibility in the way remediation wastes are managed.
- Environmental Indicators (EI): EPA established two indicators that focused on preventing unacceptable exposure to humans and preventing the continued migration of contaminated ground water. EIs acted as results-based measures for Corrective Action to aid the site decision maker in focusing on cleanup outcomes rather than process. To view EPA Region 3's EI progress, please see the list of baseline corrective action facilities.
- RCRA Corrective Action Plan (CAP, EPA 520-R-94-004) [PDF, 6.93 MB, 180 pages, About PDF] The purpose of the RCRA Corrective Action Plan (CAP) was to aid Regions and States in determining and directing the specific work that a Permittee/Respondent is required to perform as part of a complete corrective action program. It included scopes of work for Interim Measures, a RCRA Facility Investigation, a Corrective Measures Study and Corrective Measures Implementation.
- Subpart S Initiative: The Subpart S Initiative was created in response to concerns about the slow pace of RCRA Corrective Action. This initiative centered around 5 major objectives: create a consistent, holistic approach to cleanups; establish protective, practical cleanup expectations; shift more responsibility to the regulated community; streamline cleanups and reduce costs; and increase opportunities for meaningful public involvement throughout cleanups. The major product of the Subpart S Initiative was the May 1, 1996 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) PDF [About PDF].
- Highlights of the ANPR:
Corrective Action decisions should be based on risk.
Program implementation should focus on results.
Interim actions and stabilization should be used to reduce risks and prevent exposures.
Activities at Corrective Action facilities should be phased.
Program implementation should provide for meaningful inclusion of all stakeholders.
corrective Action obligations should be addressed using the most appropriate tool for any give facility.
States should be the primary implementers of the Corrective Action Program.
Proposed Post-Closure Rule (59 FR 55778, Nov. 8): This notice proposed to remove the requirement for a post-closure permit, and allow the Agency to use alternative authorities to address facilities with units requiring post-closure care. It also proposed to require authorized states to adopt, as part of an adequate enforcement program, authority to address Corrective Action at interim status facilities.
- RCRA Public Participation Manual: The RCRA Public Participation Manual was intended as a "user's manual." It explained how public participation works in the RCRA permitting process (including corrective action in Chapters 4 and 5), and how citizens, regulators, and industry could cooperate to make it work better. It also described a wide assortment of activities to enhance public participation, and included several appendices that provide lists of contact, sources of information, and examples of public participation tools and activities.
- Coordination between RCRA Corrective Action and Closure and CERCLA site Activities (Sept. 24) [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] This guidance memorandum focused on three areas: acceptance of decisions made by other remedial programs; deferral of activities and coordination among EPA RCRA, EPA CERCLA and state/tribal cleanup programs; and coordination of the specific standards and administrative requirements of closure of RCRA regulated units with other cleanup activities. The primary purpose of the guidance was to help eliminate duplication of effort, streamline cleanup processes, and build effective relationships with the states and tribes.
- Risk-Based Clean Closure Guidance (March 16) [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] This memorandum provided guidance on risk-based clean closure, and confirmed that RCRA regulated units may be clean closed to protective, risk-based media cleanup levels.
- Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR) Phase IV Rule (63 FR 28556, May 26): This rule promulgated Land Disposal Restrictions treatment standards for metal-bearing wastes, including toxicity characteristics metal wastes, and hazardous wastes from mineral processing. This rule also amended the LDR treatment standards for soil contaminated with hazardous waste. The purpose of this revision was to create standards which are more technically and environmentally appropriate to contaminated soils than those which currently apply. Additional information about this rule can be found on our National Web site .
- Post-Closure Regulations (63 FR 56710, Oct. 22):[Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] This regulation removed the requirement for a post-closure permit and allowed the Agency or authorized State to use alternative authorities to address facilities with units requiring post-closure care.
- Management of Remediation Waste Under RCRA (Oct. 14, EPA 530-F-98-026) [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] This guidance provided a very useful consolidation of existing statues, regulations, policies and guidance which can be used to tailor RCRA hazardous waste requirements when applied to remediation waste. Some examples of the 18 different approaches addressed in the guidance include: area of contamination, CAMUs, permit waivers, contained-in policy, and exemptions for less-than 90 day accumulation of hazardous waste.
- Hazardous Waste Identification Rule for Contaminated Media (HWIR-Media, Nov. 30, 63 FR 65874): This regulation made it faster and easier to obtain permits for treating, storing, and disposing of hazardous remediation wastes. It allowed facility owner/operators to seek a streamlined permit called a "Remedial Action Plan" to address remediation wastes. In addition, it removed the requirement that "cleanup only" TSDF's conduct facility-wide Corrective Action. Other key concepts addressed in the rule include the creation of a special type of unit called a "staging pile", exemption from RCRA Subtitle C for certain dredged materials, and streamlined authorization procedures for revisions to State RCRA programs.
Final Guidance for RCRA Corrective Action Environmental Indicators (Feb.
5)[Adobe Acrobat PDF file.]: This guidance updated the 1994 guidance (see
below) for evaluating sites to determine whether they meet the
RCRA Corrective Action Program's two environmental indicators.
Specifically, these indicators are called, "Current Human Exposures
Under Control" and "Migration of Contaminated Ground Water
Under Control." These two EIs represent the primary goals
for the RCRA Corrective Action Program. Furthermore, they serve
as the measures for tracking the Program's performance in accordance
with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.
The Corrective Action Program's goals were to have 95% of the high priority facilities to achieve the human exposure indicator, and 70% of high priority facilities to achieve the contaminated ground water indicator by the year 2005. The percentages apply to a baseline established in 1999 of 1712 facilities (current information can be found on the Goals and Progress page). The importance of this guidance was further emphasized in a February 11, 1999 EPA memo requesting EPA Regions to provide a commitment to the national EI goals, along with details as to how they intend to meet the goals.
- Announcement of RCRA Cleanup Reforms (July 8) [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] This announcement launched a set of administrative reforms aimed at improving progress toward a set of ambitious national cleanup goals for the RCRA Corrective Action Program. These national goals focused on achieving two environmental indicators (discussed above) at the 1,712 RCRA facilities identified by EPA and the states warranting attention over the next several years.
- Subpart S Withdrawal Notice (64 FR 54604, October 7): This notice withdrew most provisions of the 1990 Subpart S proposal (exception for those elements proposed that were made final on February 16, 1993 and two jurisdictional issues related to the definition of "facility"). EPA took this action because it believed that detailed regulations are not necessary to carry out the Agency's duties under sections 3004(u) and (v) of RCRA. Additionally, attempting to promulgate a comprehensive set of RCRA regulations at that time could unnecessarily disrupt the 33 State programs already authorized to carry out the Corrective Action Program in lieu of EPA, as well as the additional State programs which were under review for authorization. The withdrawal notice ended uncertainty related to this rulemaking for State regulators and owner and operators of hazardous waste management facilities. The notice also made it clear that the 1996 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking should be considered the primary Corrective Action implementation guidance.
- GAO Report on the Corrective Action Program (2000): [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] The GAO Reports assessed program implementation in terms of actions taken, effects and progress since its previously issued reports on the program in 1997. This assessment included: comparisons of relevant EPA regulations and guidance from 1997 with their subsequent revisions; interviews with EPA headquarters officials, EPA regional management, State, industry, and the environmental community; and comparisons of EPA program data for fiscal years 1997 and 2000.
Cleanup Reforms 2 Fact Sheet (2001): [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] EPA implemented a second set of administrative reforms, Cleanup
Reforms 2, to accelerate the cleanup of hazardous waste facilities regulated
under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). EPA's 1999
Reforms promoted faster, focused, more flexible cleanups. The 2001 Reforms
reinforced and built upon the 1999 Reforms through piloting innovative
approaches, accelerating changes in culture, connecting communities
to cleanup, and capitalizing on redevelopment potential, while maintaining
protection of human health and the environment.
- Handbook of Groundwater Protection and Cleanup Policies for RCRA Corrective Action: The Handbook was created to provide greater access and understanding to RCRA Corrective Action's groundwater policy. It is a comprehensive document which is updated as necessary to provide the latest interpretation of groundwater guidance for the RCRA Corrective Action Program. The Handbook includes information on topics such as cleanup goals, the role of groundwater use, point of compliance, source control, and monitored natural attenuation. This Handbook ties together 15 different topics with an overall Groundwater Protection and Cleanup Strategy that emphasizes a phased, results-based approach to cleaning up contaminated groundwater.
- One Cleanup Program: The One Cleanup Program is EPA's vision for coordinating various federal, state, tribal and local waste cleanup programs to increase the speed and efficiency of cleanups, and ensure that resources, activities, and results are effectively communicated to the public. The One Cleanup Program establishes activities that will lead to: more consistent and effective cleanups; clear and more useful information about cleanups; and better cross-program performance measures.
- Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act: This act seeks to revitalize communities across the nation, making them suitable for redevelopment or other beneficial reuse. It authorizes increased funding, allows use of Brownfields funds for certain RCRA sites, and provides liability protection for prospective purchasers, contiguous property owners, and innocent landowners.
- OSWER Draft Guidance for Evaluating the Vapor Intrusion to Indoor Air Pathway from Groundwater and Soils (Subsurface Vapor Intrusion Guidance - November 29, 2002): EPA issued this draft guidance to provide current technical and policy recommendations on determining if the vapor intrusion pathway at cleanup sites poses an unacceptable risk to human health. The draft guidance is intended to aid in evaluating the potential for human exposure from this pathway given the state-of-the-science at this time.
- EPA Spotlights Companies Pledging to Meet Corrective Action Environmental Indicators (2003):[Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] Some companies have several facilities needing corrective action; however not all the facilities have met both corrective action Environmental Indicators. Several companies pledged to meet EPA's environmental indicators for human health and ground water at all of their RCRA Corrective Action facilities on the Government Performance and Reviews Act (GPRA) Baseline by the end of 2005.
- Completion Guidance (2003):[Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] This Federal Register notice provided final guidance on the two types of Completion determinations for RCRA Corrective Actions facilities - Complete without Controls and Complete with Controls. It also provides direction on making completion determinations for less than the entire facility and on the administrative steps for making completion determinations.
- Beyond RCRA: Prospects for Waste & Materials Management in the Year 2020: This paper jointly developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state environmental agencies aimed to open and inspire dialogue on what the future could hold for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) program in 20 years.
- Congratulations on Exceeding Your 2005 Corrective Action Goals: This memo from Tom Dunne to the RCRA Directors recognizes the program's achievement of reaching the Environmental Indicator goals for the 2005 RCRA Corrective Action high priority baseline.
- Authorization of State RCRA Hazardous Waste Programs for Region 3:This This site provides access to the materials submitted by the States in EPA Region 3 as part of the RCRA Subtitle C authorization process.
- Guidance for OSWER Cross-Program Revitalization Measures: [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] In October, 2006, EPA issued this guidance to help track land revitalization at the national level.
- Guidance for Documenting and Reporting RCRA Subtitle C Corrective Action Land Revitalization Indicators and Performance Measures: [Adobe Acrobat PDF file.] - This document provided specific direction on how the RCRA Corrective Action program should document and report the OSWER Cross-Program Revitalization Measures developed in 2006.
National Enforcement Strategy for Corrective Action (NESCA) Part of EPA's Integrated Cleanup Initiative, NESCA is designed to identify and implement improvements to EPA's Corrective Action program that will help it achieve its 2020 goal of final cleanup remedies at 95% of all RCRA Corrective Action facilities.
Interim Final Guidance on Institutional Controls - Released in November 2010, this document provides an overview of EPA policies regarding the life cycle of institutional controls. This document has not yet been finalized, but progress updates can be found by clicking on the link above.