RCRA Cleanup Reforms
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 is implementing a set of administrative reforms, known as the RCRA Cleanup Reforms, to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action program. The reforms are designed to achieve faster, more efficient cleanups at RCRA sites that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste and have potential environmental contamination. Although these reforms will emphasize flexibility and trying new approaches to clean up these facilities, EPA Region 5 and the States will continue to ensure protection of human health and the environment. The EPA developed a fact sheet that summarizes the goals and ideas of the RCRA Cleanup Reforms.
Region 5 Implementation of RCRA Corrective Action Reforms
Region 5 has four mechanisms by which corrective action is initiated and overseen:
- Permit authority: All of the six Region 5 States are authorized for corrective action. The Region and States are working on transition plans to ensure an efficient transfer of Project responsibility to each State from the Region. The Region will continue to provide technical assistance.
- Traditional enforcement orders: Used where orders already in place. Region maintains greatest level of oversight.
- Performance-based consent agreement:This simplified order focuses on outcome, and generally reduces the Region's oversight. Recently developed and entered into with General Motors Corporation.
- Voluntary agreement: Minimal oversight by Region; although Region still chooses remedy and determines when corrective action is completed. Region available for technical assistance, as well. This new instrument was recently developed and entered into in conjunction with the Hoover Company. The Region also is evaluating how State voluntary clean-up programs could potentially help accomplish goals of the corrective action program.
Guidance and policy to improve implementation
Region 5 has already developed several tools to focus facilities and staff on results-based decision making. They are:
- Historical data: Defines when historical data can appropriately be used to make investigation or clean-up decisions.
- Institutional controls: Intended to define circumstances under which an institutional control can be used to partially or entirely serve as a facility's corrective action.
- Land use decisions: Encourages staff to confirm local land use decisions to inform appropriate type of investigation and level of clean-up.
- Quality Assurance Project Plans: Provides step-by-step instructions on how to focus a QAPP on the data quality objectives for a corrective action investigation.
- The Use of Field Methods to Support RFI Streamlining: Strategies that are intended to provide in-field data that can be used to achieve corrective action objectives in shorter time frames than are usually available through the full fixed laboratory process.
Guidance under development
- The Region is currently working on or considering other guidance to simplify and improve the corrective action process. Among them are:
- Prospective purchaser agreement: Intended to encourage property redevelopment by providing reassurance that the federal government would not sue under certain defined conditions.
- Lender liability policy: Intended to define how RCRA corrective action requirements affect liabilities for lending financial institutions.
- Risk-based decision making tools: Intended to complement current ASTSWMO effort to harmonize, where appropriate, risk-based decision guidance across all clean up programs, such as RCRA, Superfund, TSCA, and LUST.
Partner and stakeholder involvement
Effective communication between the Region and the Region 5 States is critical to the program's success. In addition to improving communication with the States, the Region is focused on improved communication with industry leaders, individual facilities, and affected community groups.