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GAO Report on Institutional Controls

On January 28, 2005, the report Hazardous Waste Sites: Improved Effectiveness of Controls at Sites Could Better Protect the Public was provided by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to members of Congress. That report, recently made public, analyzes the effectiveness of institutional controls (ICs) at Superfund sites and at Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) sites where EPA is leading the cleanup. Institutional controls are actions, such as legal controls, that help minimize the potential for human exposure to contamination by ensuring appropriate land or resource use.

Over the last ten years, EPA has placed increased attention on understanding and addressing IC issues such as those raised in the GAO report. In fact, EPA has taken specific steps to address all four of the recommendations in the report:

  • Clarify guidance on when controls should be used at Superfund sites;
  • Demonstrate that, when selecting controls, sufficient consideration was given to all key factors identified in EPA guidance;
  • Ensure that EPA sufficiently monitors the effectiveness of ICs; and
  • Ensure that the information reported on the effectiveness of ICs is accurate and reflects actual site conditions.

In October 2004, EPA developed a strategy for ensuring that ICs are successfully implemented at Superfund sites, with an emphasis on ensuring the long term protectiveness of sites where construction of cleanup activities is complete. EPA is also clarifying its guidance on when ICs should be used and is improving the way information about the effectiveness of ICs is reported.

For additional information on the GAO report and other information on ICs, go to the EPA Superfund Web site.


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