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EPA's Region 6 Office

Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations

RCRA Corrective Action Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Corrective Action program?

In 1980, when the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) law and regulations went into effect, thousands of facilities became subject to hazardous waste management regulations. These regulations helped to ensure that hazardous waste generated from ongoing industrial operations is properly managed and does not contribute to a future generation of toxic waste sites. However, many of these facilities had soil and groundwater contamination resulting from their waste management practices prior to 1980. The RCRA Corrective Action program addresses investigation and cleanup of past and present contamination at these operating industrial facilities.

Who implements the Corrective Action program?

EPA and the States are both responsible for implementing the RCRA Corrective Action program. However, EPA is gradually transferring responsibility from the federal government to individual states. When EPA determines that a State Corrective Action program is equivalent to the federal program, the State assumes responsibility through a process called authorization. Within Region 6, all six states are authorized for RCRA Corrective Action.

How does Corrective Action work?

Facilities subject to RCRA corrective action are responsible for conducting investigations and cleanups as necessary to protect human health and the environment. EPA and the States oversee the implementation of activities through a review and approval process, along with oversight of field activities. Sometimes facilities pro-actively choose to conduct investigations and cleanup actions in advance of regulatory oversight.

Where does EPA’s Corrective Action authority come from?

EPA’s authority to require facility-wide corrective action comes from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act from the following specific sections of that statute: 3004(u)&(v), 3005(c)(3), 3008(h), 3013, and 7003. EPA’s regulatory authority for corrective action at permitted facilities is found in 40 CFR Part 264 Subpart F. EPA provides additional direction on corrective action through guidance, policy directives and related regulations, all of which were designed to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the program. The most recent and comprehensive guidance issued for RCRA corrective action is in the May 1, 1996 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. For a copy of the ANPR (EPA, 1996a, 61 FR 19431), please go to the following EPA Headquarters website: http://www.epa.gov/docs/fedrgstr/EPA-WASTE/1996/May/Day-01/pr-547.pdf)

How is RCRA Corrective Action different from the Superfund Program?

The Corrective Action program is different from Superfund because it deals with sites that have viable operators and on-going operations. Superfund was primarily designed to remedy the mistakes in hazardous waste management made in the past at facilities that have been abandoned or where a sole responsible party cannot be identified. Cleanup at Superfund sites is primarily paid for by the Superfund Trust Fund with money derived mainly from taxes on the chemical and petroleum industries. The Corrective Action program primarily encompasses active facilities that have a RCRA permit, historically needed a RCRA permit, or are currently seeking a RCRA permit to treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste. As a condition for obtaining a RCRA operating permit, these active facilities are required to clean up contaminants that are currently being released or that were released in the past. RCRA facilities must pay for the cleanup at their site.

What are Environmental Indicators?

The long-term goal of the Corrective Action program is to achieve final cleanup at all RCRA facilities, but EPA developed Environmental Indicators to track cleanup progress in the near-term. EPA developed two Environmental Indicators. They are the Human Exposures Under Control Environmental Indicator and the Migration of Contaminated Groundwater Under Control Environmental Indicator. These Environmental Indicators are helping regulators and facilities prioritize work and focus efforts on those problems that potentially pose the most significant risks. EPA is also using these two Environmental Indicators to monitor progress in response to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA - see http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/planning/gpra.htm).

What is the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA)?

The Government Performance and Results Act required all government agencies to develop program measures to track progress. EPA, in conjunction with the States, developed a RCRA Cleanup Baseline to focus efforts on those facilities that likely pose the greatest threat. EPA ranked facilities as a High, Medium, or Low priority, based on a screening of facility specific factors including release information, contaminant fate and transport, toxicity, potential migration pathways, target receptors, and waste management unit characteristics. As a result of this ranking, EPA created a national RCRA Cleanup Baseline of 1714 high-priority facilities. One hundred and eighty four of these facilities are in Region 6. EPA established specific goals for these high-priority facilities.

What are Government Performance and Results Act goals for Corrective Action?

EPA’s Government Performance and Results Act goals for Corrective Action are as follows: by 2005, the States and EPA will verify and document through the Environmental Indicator assessments that 95% of the high priority facilities have Current Human Exposures Under Control and 70% will have Migration of Contaminated Groundwater Under Control.

How can facilities get off the RCRA Cleanup Baseline?

The Cleanup Baseline is a tool for tracking EPA and State progress. Although facilities are not "removed" from the baseline, after a cleanup is completed with an opportunity for public comment, a letter is issued to the company stating that no further corrective action is necessary at the time.

What are the RCRA Cleanup Reforms?

EPA introduced RCRA Cleanup Reforms in 1999 and is implementing additional Reforms in 2001 to speedup the pace of cleanups. The Reforms build upon various approaches taken by EPA and the States in recent years to achieve faster, more efficient cleanups. EPA designed the 1999 Reforms to: (1) focus the program more effectively on achieving environmental results, rather than fulfilling unnecessary steps in a bureaucratic process; (2) foster maximum use of program flexibility and practical approaches to achieve program goals; and (3) enhance public access to cleanup information and improve opportunity for public involvement in the cleanup process. The 2001 Reforms introduced new initiatives to reinforce and continue the momentum of the 1999 Reforms. Specifically, the 2001 Reforms direct energies to: (1) pilot innovative approaches; (2)accelerate changes in culture; (3) connect communities to cleanups; and (4) capitalize on redevelopment potential. For more information about the reforms, please go to the EPA Headquarters website on this topic: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/ca/reforms.htm

How can the public be involved in Corrective Action?

Public participation plays an integral role in all RCRA programs, including Corrective Action. The RCRA Public Participation Manual provides a clear description of the many public participation activities that are required by federal regulations as well as pointing out steps you or your organization can take to provide more public input into the process.

When is Corrective Action complete?

A facility has fulfilled all of their corrective action obligations when the final remedy (1) protects human health and the environment, (2) achieves media (i.e. soil, air, groundwater, surface water) cleanup objectives, and (3) cleans up the sources of releases to eliminate or further reduce threats to human health and the environment.

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