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Hazardous Waste

Measuring Progress at Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action Facilities

The ultimate goal of the Corrective Action Program is to achieve final cleanups. EPA measures the intermediate success of the program using environmental indicators and other measures that mark progress toward national cleanup goals. These measures were established in accordance with the Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 and are reported at the end of each fiscal year.

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What are Environmental Indicators?

Environmental Indicators (EIs) are measures used by the RCRA Corrective Action Program to track progress at Corrective Action sites in environmental terms. Environmental Indicators are a means of evaluating and reporting the acceptability of current environmental conditions at corrective action facilities. They also provide an opportunity for facilities and regulators to show meaningful progress. EIs are interim milestones and not final remedy or site closure goals.

EPA developed two EIs to indicate the quality of the environment during the Corrective Action process:

  • The “Current Human Exposures Under Control” or Human Exposures EI ensures that people near a particular facility are not exposed to unacceptable levels of contaminants.
  • The “Migration Of Contaminated Groundwater Under Control” or Groundwater EI ensures that contaminated groundwater does not spread and further contaminate groundwater resources.

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Final Remedies Versus Environmental Indicators

While final cleanups or remedies remain the long-term objective of the RCRA Corrective Action Program, the EIs are short-term objectives. The “Current Human Exposures Under Control” EI only considers human exposures under current land- and groundwater-use conditions and does not consider potential future use conditions or ecological receptors. Final remedies address long-term issues (e.g., potential future human exposure scenarios, future land and groundwater uses, and ecological receptors) to meet the RCRA Corrective Action Program’s overall mission to protect human health and the environment.

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Final Remedy Construction and Performance Standards Attained

EPA decided to prioritize corrective action facilities presenting the greatest risk to human health and the environment. Accordingly, initial program goals focused on these two EIs designed to stabilize the program's highest priority facilities. These EIs have now been satisfied at most of the highest-priority Corrective Action facilities.

As a result, the program has expanded its focus to include long-term measures, adding the following two goals:

  • Final Remedy Construction
  • Performance Standards Attained

The goal of “Final Remedy Construction” is met when a site completes construction of the final remedy designed to achieve long-term protection of human health and the environment. This goal may be met even if final cleanup levels have not yet been reached, but the constructed final remedy must be sufficient to get towards those cleanup levels with time. For example, a constructed final remedy may be a groundwater treatment system that will ensure that groundwater meets cleanup goals with time.

The goal of “Performance Standards Attained” is met when the remedies that were selected for the protection of human health and the environment are fully implemented. Cleanup levels must been attained. This goal may be reached with or without controls in place or additional long-term stewardship actions in place to be sure human health and the environment remain protected in perpetuity.

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2015 GPRA Goals

Four GPRA goals for 2015 apply to the full 2020 Corrective Action Baseline as follows:

  • 92 percent Human Exposures Under Control
  • 84 percent Migration of Contaminated Groundwater Under Control
  • 64 percent Final Remedy Construction
  • 27 percent Performance Standards Attained

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National Corrective Action Prioritization System

Prior to the enactment of the GPRA, EPA developed NCAPS, a screening tool to rank facilities subject to RCRA Corrective Action as high, medium, or low priority. In order to ensure that sites presenting the greatest risk to human health and the environment receive priority, EPA used the computer-based NCAPS to rank the cleanup of sites relative to other sites. The relative ranking of each site (high, medium or low) assigned to each site is based on an evaluation of four pathways for actual or potential contamination: groundwater, surface water, air and soil.

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