Superfund Task Force Issues Final Report and Announces Plans to Continue Program Improvements Moving Forward
Officials discussed progress at San Jacinto River Waste Pits site near Houston, Texas
DALLAS – (Sept. 9, 2019) Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the completion of the Superfund Task Force and issued the Task Force’s final report outlining significant accomplishments over the past two years at Superfund sites across the country. The announcement included plans for integrating the work of the Task Force into EPA’s ongoing cleanup work moving forward.
Officials from EPA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Harris County gathered at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits site in Channelview, Texas, to discuss the announcement and cleanup progress at the site. Under the Task Force’s Administrator’s Emphasis List of sites for accelerated review, EPA and the potentially responsible parties signed an order in April 2018 to complete a remedial design for the removal of waste from the site for disposal.
“Thanks to the hard work of EPA career officials, the Superfund Task Force has strengthened the program in numerous ways, from accelerating cleanups to promoting redevelopment to improving community engagement,” said Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The recommendations generated by the Task Force and applied by the Superfund program have directly improved the health and economic opportunity of thousands of people living near Superfund sites. We are taking concrete steps to ensure that the work of the Task Force continues to enhance the Superfund program moving forward.”
“The work of the Superfund Task Force brought significant progress to addressing contamination at the San Jacinto waste pits site,” said Regional Administrator Ken McQueen. “EPA will continue working with our partners toward a permanent clean-up for the benefit of the Highlands community.”
“The TCEQ appreciates EPA’s efforts on the Superfund Taskforce recommendations,” said Executive Director Toby Baker. “We look forward to our continued successful partnership with EPA to ensure proper and timely cleanup of Texas federal Superfund sites.”
“Harris County's work with the EPA and TCEQ on the cleanup of the San Jacinto Waste Pits is a great example of how government, at all levels, can work together for the common good,” said Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan. “The announcement on October 11, 2017, that the EPA's cleanup remedy will include the removal of 212,000 cubic yards of dioxin-laden waste from the beds and banks of the San Jacinto River has been a highpoint in my administration. Today’s announcement furthers my commitment to work together as we get closer to the goal."
Commissioned in May 2017 to provide recommendations on how EPA could streamline and improve the Superfund Program, the Task Force issued its initial report in July 2017 with 42 recommendations in five goal areas. Based on the collective experience of EPA’s career staff and others, the recommendations offered important suggestions for improving the program and expediting site cleanups through remediation and back to productive use. By implementing the recommendations over the past two years, the Task Force has helped to provide certainty to communities, states, tribes and developers that the nation’s most hazardous sites will be cleaned up as quickly and safely as possible.
The important work of the Task Force will continue under the Superfund Program and at all sites on the National Priorities List (NPL). The agency will continue to prioritize expediting cleanups to protect people’s health and the environment. Moving forward, the agency plans to:
- Improve accountability and ensure the work continues in the future by tracking and reporting on our progress with a new set of performance measures: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-task-force-metrics.
- Conduct a strategic and comprehensive portfolio review of every site remaining on the NPL to enable EPA to better utilize the Task Force’s tools and lessons learned in advancing cleanups across the country.
- Continue to identify and implement new opportunities and approaches to improve the program’s performance and effectiveness.
Highlights of the Superfund Task Force Accomplishments
Goal 1: Expediting Cleanup and Remediation - The Task Force developed several tools to expedite cleanup and remediation at sites including the Administrator’s Emphasis List, a list of sites targeted for the administrator’s immediate and intense attention. The agency will continue using the Emphasis List to focus on sites needing immediate and intense attention and will update the list quarterly. Substantial progress has been made at sites on this list, for example:
- New Castle, Delaware: At the Delaware Sand and Gravel Landfill Superfund Site a settlement with responsible parties was secured allowing the initiation of pre-design work and installation of two groundwater interceptor wells to protect water supply wells.
- Picher and Cardin, Oklahoma: At the Tar Creek Superfund Site the Agency brought together various parties to develop a long-term strategy to manage risks, cleanup, and economic opportunities at the site.
Goal 2: Re-Invigorating Responsible Party Cleanup and Reuse - The Task Force developed new enforcement guidance for EPA’s regional offices to accelerate remedial design starts at potentially responsible party (PRP)-lead Superfund sites. Moving forward, the guidance’s recommended settlement strategy will be considered by EPA regions as a matter of national practice. This guidance has accelerated work at several sites, for example:
- Calvert City, Kentucky: At the B.F. Goodrich Site EPA negotiated a settlement agreement with PRPs for the remedial design. The agreement allows the PRPs to begin designing the cleanup while negotiating a separate agreement for the remedial action phase of the cleanup.
Goal 3: Encouraging Private Investment - The Task Force recognized that EPA should support, where appropriate, innovative approaches to promote third-party investment in cleanup and reuse of contaminated properties consistent with statutory authorities. By the end of 2019, EPA plans to issue a memorandum to EPA regional offices to promote this approach where appropriate and in the interest of the Superfund Program, for example:
- Fredericktown, Missouri: At the Madison County Mines Site, EPA entered into an administrative settlement with Missouri Mining Investments, LLC to conduct removal actions at the site. This will result in the consolidation and capping of on-site mine waste and allow the approximately 1,750-acre property to be redeveloped for future mining of cobalt and other metals.
Goal 4: Promoting Redevelopment and Community Revitalization - The Task Force worked to increase the number of NPL sites that are returned to communities for redevelopment through focused management attention and improved program practices. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, EPA achieved the goal sitewide ready for anticipated use at 51 sites, the highest total since FY 2013. EPA will continue to post specific information about sites available for redevelopment prominently on the Superfund Redevelopment website for stakeholders, developers, and businesses seeking information, for example:
- Libby, Montana: The agency identified the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site and the Libby Groundwater Contamination Superfund site as redevelopment opportunities. In addition to a cleanup that restored neighborhoods and business areas, parts of the sites are now in reuse. The Riverfront Park now has river access, pavilions, a memorial, parking, and picnic tables.
Goal 5: Engaging Partners and Stakeholders - The Task Force initiated a number of ongoing outreach activities to engage communities near Superfund sites, for example:
- Partnership and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy: EPA developed and released a “Partnership and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy”(https://semspub.epa.gov/work/HQ/100000860.pdf) to strengthen EPA partnerships and increase public participation and transparency at Superfund sites across the country.
- Risk Communication Strategy: The agency developed a plan (https://semspub.epa.gov/work/HQ/199586.pdf) to improve risk communication and community involvement practices during the long-term stewardship phase of Superfund site remediation. Lessons learned from implementing this plan will be applied across the life-cycle of the Superfund process.
More information on EPA’s Superfund Task Force and the final Superfund Task Force Report can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-task-force-recommendations-and-accomplishments
A storyboard highlighting Superfund Task Force success stories from across the country can be found at: https://epa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=21708909e0164750b20b351e2d931092
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