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Round 3-2: Update Remedy Decisions at Select Sites




Reform Description
Since October 1995, EPA has encouraged the Regions to revisit remedy decisions at certain sites where significant new scientific information, technological advancements, or other considerations will achieve the current level of protectiveness of human health and the environment while enhancing overall remedy effectiveness and cost effectiveness.

While the Agency has always been able to "update" or change the details of a cleanup strategy to reflect new information that may not have been available at the time of the original decision, this reform institutionalized remedy updates to encourage these cost-saving measures. Typically, changes were made to reflect new information about the characteristics or volumes of contamination present and/or new expectations regarding the performance of selected technologies under site-specific conditions. Further, the updates considered the implications of these factors on original decision criteria such as implementability, short-term effectiveness, cost, and community acceptance.

Updates also were made to reflect changes in State requirements (i.e., ARARs), or other information that could not have been considered in the original decision. Once a Regional manager decides to undertake such changes, there are specific requirements for public or other stakeholder involvement depending on the nature and significance of the anticipated change.

This reform was undertaken specifically to encourage appropriate changes in response to advances in remediation science and technology. EPA's guidance (see Documents below) targeted the following three types of changes:
  1. Changes in the remediation technology employed, where a different technology would result in a more cost-effective cleanup;

  2. Modification of the remediation objectives due to physical limitations posed by site conditions or the nature of the contamination; and,

  3. Modification of the monitoring program to reduce sampling, analysis, and reporting requirements, where appropriate.
This reform recognized that recent advances in the area of ground water science and remediation made ground water decisions good candidates for updates.

It is important to emphasize that this initiative does not signal any changes in Agency policies regarding site cleanup, including policies regarding remedy selection, treatment of principal threats, preference for permanence, establishment of cleanup levels, waivers of cleanup levels, or the degree to which remedies must protect human health and the environment.

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Reform Status
check mark Implementation of this reform is complete.

EPA will continue to tabulate specific remedy update data on a quarterly basis, and work with States and PRPs to identify opportunities for improving remedies.

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Results

This reform has been very successful in bringing past decisions in line with current science and technology. Updates have improved the cost-effectiveness of site remediation while ensuring reliable short- and long-term protection of human health and the environment.

The quantifiable results of this reform have been announced in EPA's testimony before Congress, private industry evaluations of the Superfund Reforms, and a report of the U.S. General Accounting Office. Of additional note is EPA's overwhelmingly positive record of responding to remedy update requests made by outside parties.

Through FY03, EPA had updated a total of 458 remedy decisions. The agency stimates that these updates will produce future cost savings of over $1.78 billion. In particular, 140 remedies were updated during FY02.

chart of results

A small number of remedy updates accounted for the majority of the cost increases observed during FY02-03.


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Stakeholder Comments
An April 1997 Chemical Manufacturers Association's Report entitled "A Chemical Industry Perspective on EPA's Superfund Administrative Reforms," stated that:

"Of the five reforms covered in this report, the updating of previous RODs reform generated the most positive comments, both from PRPs and from EPA."

"PRPs confirm that some remedies are being updated and that additional petitions to update remedies are pending."

"In sum, this reform has produced the greatest tangible benefits of any of EPA's Superfund [Reforms]."

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Success Stories
Allied Chemical & Ironton Coke Site, Lawrence County, OH

On September 30, 1998, EPA approved an amendment to the Record of Decision for the Allied Chemical & Ironton Coke site that will result in cost savings of approximately $50 million.

The PRP at the site proposed the alternative remedy after data collected during the engineering design phase showed that contamination levels in the soils where not as high as previously thought. The revised remedy will replace in-situ bioremediation of over 450,000 cubic yards of soil with hot spot excavation and wetland development, and replace incineration of other lagoon materials with recycling, treatment, and/or disposal of waste materials in an approved off-site hazardous waste facility, with some remaining soils used as an alternative fuel mixture. The new remedy will achieve cleanup levels that are protective of human health and the environment, and the constructed wetland will create a valuable ecological habitat for the community. [FY98 Success]

Tyson's Dump, PA

The Tyson's Dump site was an abandoned septic and chemical waste disposal site located near a residential area in southeastern Pennsylvania. After its discovery, the original proposed remedy involved excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated soils. The 1988 revised Record of Decision (ROD) implemented soil vapor extraction (SVE). Although SVE improved the conditions at Tyson's Dump, it did not have the capabilities that EPA originally expected. The Agency updated the SVE with a new technology, adding a vent layer, vegetated cover layer, surface irrigation system, various pumps, and vent pipes. As a direct result of the updated remedy, EPA removed the Tyson's Dump site from the NPL on December 22, 1997. [FY98 Success]

A. O. Polymer Site, Sparta Township, NJ

At the A. O. Polymer site, the original ground water remedy included pumping and treating with powdered activated carbon followed by filtration and carbon polishing to achieve State maximum contaminant levels, at a cost of approximately $19 million. Through a request to revise the treatment system by a potentially responsible party (PRP), EPA and New Jersey reviewed the data and granted the request to update the ground water treatment system to air stripping at a cost of approximately $10 million. Additional future cost reductions will be realized through refining the capture zone of the pumping system and by reducing pumping volumes. An ESD was signed to implement these changes, which EPA estimates will result in a reduction in remedy costs of over $9 million. [FY97 Success]

Metamora Site, MI

At the Metamora site in Michigan, the original soil remedy called for excavation and incineration of co-mingled soils at a cost of approximately $70 million. Additional soil characterization during remedy implementation showed that materials previously categorized as "principal threats," for which treatment is strongly preferred, were in actuality "low level threats," for which containment is generally acceptable.

EPA reviewed and approved a request made by a PRP to reconsider the threat posed by soil. A ROD amendment was signed which updated the remedy to consolidation of soils into an on-site landfill at a cost of approximately $42 million. The future cost reduction of over $28 million resulted from improved understanding of the nature of the soil contamination and is consistent with policy expectations regarding treatment of principal threats or containment of low-level threats. [FY97 Success]

Norwood PCBs Site, MA

At the Norwood PCBs site in Massachusetts, the original soil remedy called for on-site solvent extraction (an innovative technology) at costs estimated at slightly over $13 million in 1989, but which had increased to over $54 million by 1995. Difficulties in locating solvent extraction facilities due to space constraints and safety issues were encountered in the pre-design phase. From 1989 to 1995, EPA reexamined the risk-based site cleanup goals based on revisions to human health and ecological risk calculations and clarified the reasonably anticipated future land use for the site.

Based on the new site information obtained from this reexamination (together with data showing that all treatment technologies evaluated in the original remedy could not be implemented due to limited space), an alternate approach of consolidation was developed. The Record of Decision (ROD) amendment was signed updating the soil remedy to consolidation under an impermeable asphalt cap which could facilitate future site development at a cost of just over $7 million. EPA estimates this amendment will result in overall reductions in cost of approximately $47 million. [FY97 Success]

Western Processing Site, Kent, WA

At the Western Processing site, the ground water portion of the original remedy (valued at approximately $200 million) was modified to reflect new information gained from remedy implementation. As a result of information collected during operation of the pump and treat remedy, the Region determined that the remedy could be enhanced significantly by extending the existing containment barrier and by automating the pumping system.

These changes will greatly reduce the volume of ground water pumped, reduce the monitoring and sampling costs, and remain fully consistent with EPA's recent guidance for remediating ground water. An Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) was signed to implement the changes. Estimated costs of the modified remedy will be approximately $118 million, resulting in overall reductions in remedy costs of $82 million. [FY97 Success]

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Documents

Title: Updating Remedy Decisions at Select Superfund Sites Summary Report FY 2002 and FY 2003
Date: September 2004
Doc #: EPA-540-R-04-010, OSWER 9355.0-107
Synopsis: This report summarizes the progress of this reform in fiscal years 2002 and 2003.

Title: Updating Remedy Decisions at Select Superfund Sites Summary Report FY 2000 and FY 2001
Date: February 2003 (Completed October 2003)
Document #: EPA-540-R-03-001, OSWER # 9355.0-94
Synopsis: This report summarizes the progress of this reform in fiscal years 2000 and 2001, during which time EPA updated an additional 111 remedies, reducing estimated future cleanup costs by approximately $228 million. Over the two-year period, most of the remedy updates were initiated by parties outside of EPA, addressing the most common media ground water and soil. The appendices to this document provide information on all sites that had a remedy update during FY 2000 and FY 2001.

Title: Updating Remedy Decisions at Select Superfund Sites Summary Report FY 1998 and FY 1999
Date: March 2001
Document #: EPA 540-R-01-00, OSWER 9355.0-76
Synopsis: This report summarizes the progress of this reform in fiscal years 1998 and 1999, during which time EPA updated remedies at approximately 160 sites, reducing estimated future cleanup costs by more than $710 million. The appendices to this document give detailed information on each site that had a remedy update during FY 1998 or FY 1999.

Title: Updating Remedy Decisions at Select Superfund Sites Cumulative Summary Report FY 1996 Through FY 1999
Date: March 2001
Document #: EPA 540-R-01-002, OSWER 9355.0-77
Synopsis: This cumulative report summarizes the progress and trends of this reform in fiscal years 1996 through 1999, during which time EPA updated remedies at over 300 sites, reducing estimated future cleanup costs by more than $1.4 billion. Over the four-year period, most remedy updates were initiated by parties outside of EPA (such as potentially responsible parties, states, communities, and federal facilities). Additionally, in each year, the majority of remedy updates took less than one year to complete.

Title: Updating Remedy Decisions at Select Superfund Sites Summary Report FY 1996 and FY 1997
Date: July 1998
Document #: EPA 540-R-98-017, OSWER 9355.0-70, PB98-963304
Synopsis: Reform 3-2, Update Remedy Decisions at Select Sites, has been characterized as one of EPA's most successful Superfund Reforms. This report summarizes the progress of this reform in fiscal years 1996 and 1997, during which time EPA updated remedies at over 140 sites, reducing estimated future cleanup costs by more than $745 million. The appendices to this document give detailed information on each site that had a remedy update during FY 1996 or FY 1997.

Title: Superfund Reforms: Updating Remedy Decisions
Date: September 27, 1996
Document #: EPA 540-F-96-026, OSWER 9200.0-22, PB96-963252
Synopsis: This memorandum provides guidance on how the program is expected to implement the reform. The guidance targets the following types of changes:

  1. Changes in the remediation technology employed, where a different technology would result in a more cost-effective cleanup;

  2. Modification of the remediation objectives due to physical limitations posed by site conditions or the nature of the contamination; and,

  3. Modification of the monitoring program to reduce sampling, analysis, and reporting requirements, where appropriate.

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