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Enforcement

Cleanup Enforcement Program FY 2017 Accomplishments

In fiscal year 2017, EPA continued to protect human health and the environment by ensuring that responsible parties perform or pay for the cleanup of our nation’s most contaminated sites and work to get sites cleaned up and back to potential reuse.

To address cleanup of contaminated sites, EPA uses the cleanup statutory authorities in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly referred to as Superfund), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The Superfund program is a cornerstone of the work that the EPA performs for citizens and communities across the country. On July 25, 2017 Administrator Pruitt accepted recommendations from the Superfund Task Force, established on May 22, 2017, with the goal to revitalize the Superfund program.

The task force’s recommendations focused on five overarching goals:

  • expediting cleanup and remediation,
  • reinvigorating cleanup and reuse efforts by potentially responsible parties,
  • encouraging private investment to facilitate cleanup and reuse,
  • promoting redevelopment and community revitalization, and
  • engaging with partners and stakeholders.

The Agency’s cleanup enforcement program is an integral part of the task force. Work to prioritize and reinvigorate the Superfund program by the task force has been initiated and will be ongoing into the future. The Superfund Task Force Recommendations can be viewed at https://www.epa.gov/superfund-task-force-recommendations.

The Superfund enforcement program gets Superfund sites cleaned up by finding the companies or individuals responsible for contamination at a site, and negotiating with them to do the cleanup themselves, or to pay for the cleanup to be done by another party. The work of the Superfund enforcement program preserves taxpayer dollars and the scarce resources of the Superfund trust fund to address truly abandoned and orphaned sites. Over the past 10 years, for every one dollar spent by the Superfund civil enforcement program, private parties committed to spending eight dollars toward cleanup work leading to restoration of land and water, facilitating reuse and revitalization, and protecting communities and taxpayers.

Superfund Enforcement Cleanup Work MapSuperfund Enforcement Cleanup Work MapTo see Superfund sites across the country that are being investigated and cleaned up as a result of EPA’s enforcement efforts, we encourage you to visit the Superfund Enforcement Cleanup Work map, an online tool developed by the Agency's cleanup enforcement program. The map shows currently ongoing site investigation and cleanup work at Superfund sites that is being performed by responsible parties under EPA enforcement instruments finalized through FY 2017. Enhancements to the map in FY 2017 include the ability to sort sites by the year the enforcement agreement was finalized and the type of cleanup work that is being conducted.

In FY 2017, EPA’s cleanup enforcement program:

Attained over $1.5 billion to continue cleanup work and support the program

In FY 2017, the cleanup enforcement program continued to maintain the integrity of the Superfund program by securing approximately $1.5 billion in monies that will allow new cleanup work at Superfund sites, replenish the Superfund Trust Fund, and reimburse the Agency for administrative costs in managing the program and for past cleanup costs.

Under 124 enforcement settlements and orders approved in FY 2017, potentially responsible parties (PRPs) agreed to

  • Reimburse $142.6 million of EPA’s past costs for cleanup work performed at Superfund sites, as well as an additional $99 million for oversight costs, and
  • Commit to spend more than $1.2 billion on new site cleanup work.

Cleaned up contaminated water, soil and sediments

Each year the cleanup enforcement program has an annual goal of cleaning up contaminated groundwater and soil at hazardous waste sites. The goal for FY 2017 was 200 million cubic yards. The national program achieved 432.8 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and groundwater in 2017, more than double the FY 2017 goal, with the majority of the achievement coming from three Superfund enforcement cases:

  • Agreement with 66 companies to clean up contaminated groundwater at the Omega Chemical Corporation Site in Whittier, California – 200 million cubic yards of water. (Case summary).
  • Agreement with Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corporation to clean up contaminated groundwater at the Shieldalloy Metallurgical Superfund Site in Newfield Borough, New Jersey – 119 million cubic yards of water, 21,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, and 9,800 cubic yards of contaminated sediments.
  • Agreement with the U.S. Department of the Army to clean up contaminated groundwater at the Letterkenny Army Depot Southeast Area in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania – 85 million cubic yards of water.

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Agreed to settlements totaling more than $600 million to address cleanup of abandoned uranium mines in the Southwest

Map of Abandoned Uranium Mines on the Navajo NationFrom 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands under leases with the Navajo Nation. Today the mines are closed, but a legacy of uranium contamination remains, including over 500 abandoned uranium mines as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Two settlements, totaling over $600 million, will result in significant environmental and health benefits for the Navajo Nation. The legacy of uranium mining has left soil, water, rocks, and structures on the Navajo Nation contaminated with unsafe levels of uranium and radiation. Uranium is linked to kidney damage and contact with radiation may increase cancer risk.

The following is a brief overview of the major settlements from FY 2017 addressing the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines.

  • Freeport Uranium Mine Settlement, Navajo Nation – On May 19, 2017, the Arizona District Court entered a settlement, valued at over $600 million, between the United States and the Navajo Nation, two affiliated subsidiaries of Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., and the Department of Energy and Department of Interior (DOE/DOI). This settlement provides for the cleanup of 94 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Under the settlement, Freeport will perform the work and DOE/DOI will contribute approximately half ($300 million) of the costs to the cleanup. The settlement requires Freeport to perform removal site evaluations, engineering evaluations and cost analyses, removal actions, and remedial design and remedial action at the 94 sites covered by the settlement. The settling parties also agreed to pay EPA’s past costs ($3.1 million), and Freeport will pay EPA’s and the Navajo Nation’s future oversight costs. More information is available from the Navajo Nation: Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines Web page.
  • Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine, New Mexico – On June 14, 2017, EPA and Atlantic Richfield Company (ARC) signed an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) to conduct the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) for the Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine site located at the Laguna Pueblo, about 40 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The AOC became effective on July 1, 2017, and requires ARC to perform a complete site characterization of potential threats to human health and the environment. The site consists of three former tribal leases within the Laguna Pueblo. Pursuant to the AOC, ARC is coordinating activities with EPA and the Pueblo of Laguna. The former leaseholder, Anaconda Minerals Company, a division of ARC, mined and operated a uranium mine at the site from 1953 through March 1982. During the 29 years of mining, about 400 million tons of rocks were moved within the mine area and about 25 million tons of uranium ore were transported via the Santa Fe Railroad from the mine to Anaconda's Bluewater Mill 40 miles west of the site. Mining operations detrimentally affected surface water with hazardous chemicals in quantities sufficient to support listing onto the EPA National Priorities List on December 12, 2013. More information is available on the Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine site profile page.

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Promoted Third Party Investment in Cleanup and Reuse

EPA continues to facilitate the cleanup and reuse of contaminated properties by clarifying Superfund liability concerns through implementation of the landowner liability protections and use of site-specific tools, such as comfort/status letters and settlement agreements with bona fide prospective purchasers (BFPPs) and other third parties. EPA is committed to the cleanup and reuse of contaminated properties because it helps EPA achieve its enforcement and environmental protection goals.

EPA’s site-specific tools have enabled cleanup and reuse at National Priorities List sites to move forward where liability concerns pose a barrier. Through the efforts of the Superfund Task Force, EPA is ensuring a streamlined and timely process for responding to requests for site-specific comfort/status letters, settlement agreements, or other approaches to address potential liability concerns at contaminated properties.

In July 2017, the United States reached a settlement agreement with BFPP Warmington Fairchild Associates, LLC at the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman (MEW) Study Area in Mountain View, California. The study area consists of three Superfund NPL sites that are being cleaned up simultaneously. Under the settlement, Warmington Fairchild Associates agreed to conduct response actions at three parcels within the MEW Study Area, which will significantly and rapidly reduce subsurface contamination at the properties so that redevelopment, including construction of homes, can move forward in a manner protective for future occupancy.

Also in 2017, EPA also issued a comfort/status letter to the U.S. Air Force, the City of St. Louis Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The letter concerned the proposed $2 billion, 3,000-job Next NGA West Campus for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to be built in a blighted area near downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The letter describes the site history and status, and EPA’s intention to review, and approve, subject to technical and legal review, the MDNR Brownfields Voluntary Cleanup Program’s documents for the site cleanup prior to acquisition by the Air Force and construction of the facility.

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Addressed contamination at federally owned Superfund sites to ensure the U.S. government addresses its own legacy contamination

Federal agencies and their facilities must comply with environmental laws and requirements to the same extent as any other regulated facility, and this includes cleaning up contamination at Superfund sites owned by the federal government. In addition to negotiating several significant cleanup commitments with federal agencies in 2017, EPA also initiated some new strategies under the Superfund Task Force designed to facilitate and speed up clean up and redevelopment at federally owned contaminated sites. As part of the 42 task force recommendations, three recommendations apply specifically to federal facilities. These recommendations are designed to speed up formal and informal cleanup disputes between the responsible federal parties, EPA and states, revise existing guidance and establish a model to support third party investment in and redevelopment of federal government Superfund sites, and develop more robust collaborative strategies between federal agencies and the EPA in order to facilitate clean up and redevelopment.

In 2017 EPA began outreach to other federal agencies, state and regulatory partners, and trade organizations to solicit ideas and input to develop these new strategies at federal facility NPL sites. These activities will continue in 2018 as EPA furthers its efforts to speed up cleanup and redevelopment.

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Information on the Agency’s cleanup enforcement program is available from the Agency’s Waste, Chemical, and Cleanup Enforcement website.

Summaries of cases and settlements for FY 2017 are available on the Agency’s Cases and Settlements Database.