National Contingency Plan for Superfund Announced

[EPA press release - March 12, 1982]

Anne M. Gorsuch, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, today announced proposed national guidelines for cleaning up abandoned hazardous waste sites across the country under the Administration's Superfund program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing, in the Superfund National Contingency Plan (NCP), guidelines for coordinating federal and state responses to hazardous substance spills and for cleaning up hazardous waste sites under Superfund.

"Safe and effective toxic waste management is one of the primary environmental goals of this Administration," said Mrs. Gorsuch. "This plan reflects our commitment.

"The NCP, which outlines government response to the difficult problem of hazardous waste cleanup, exemplifies regulatory reform in the Reagan Administration. Its provisions are concise, its language non-technical, and its requirements flexible," said Mrs. Gorsuch.

Christopher DeMuth, Executive Director, Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief, said, "in the 14 months since President Reagan was inaugurated, this Administration has been striving--successfully, I believe--to make government more responsive and efficient. Our main means of accomplishing this is through regulatory reform. Today's proposed NCP proves that federal regulations need not be cumbersome or costly."

The Superfund law sets federal responsibilities for response to spills of hazardous substances and for cleanup of abandoned hazardous waste sites. It sets up a $1.6 billion trust fund over five years, consisting of taxes on the manufacture of certain chemicals and general revenues appropriated by Congress.

"The Reagan Administration believes that a policy of straightforward regulation and careful resource management, combined with an unshakable environmental commitment, is our mandate from the American people. And I believe that this policy will result in a swift cleanup of existing environmental hazards. Waste site cleanup will be our environmental legacy to future generations," said Mrs. Gorsuch.

The NCP determines when the federal government may use the Superfund trust money to respond to a hazardous substances spill, or to clean up a hazardous waste site. The NCP also contains guidelines for determining the extent of response or cleanup, as well as criteria for determining the cleanup priority of spills or waste sites.

The NCP recognizes that cleanup needs vary significantly from site to site. On one site, drums may be removed, and the surface scaled, graded and re-vegetated. In another, a system may be built from trapping and treating leachate so that pollutants do not escape the site.

"We have learned that every feasible alternative must be examined to see if it can be tailored to the unique problems of the particular site. The remedy will depend on many variables such as the substances present, hydrogeology, soil conditions, climate, size and proximity of population," said EPA Administrator Anne M. Gorsuch.

In recognition of varying site conditions, the NCP provides for a case-by-case determination of the appropriate extent of site cleanup.

This process entails tailoring cleanup plans to conditions at individual sites. A limited number of cleanup alternatives are developed. Then these are screened and refined, using economic, engineering and environmental factors to assure that the final remedy is one that will adequately and effectively protect public health.

The revisions of the National Contingency Plan is required by the Superfund law (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980). The NCP was first published in 1968 to cover oil spills. It has been amended, most recently in 1980, to cover response to oil or hazardous substance spills in surface water under the Clean Water Act. The revisions now available for comment under the Superfund law reflect expanded federal responsibilities for response in any environmental media (air, water, land).

EPA was delegated the lead role in implementing the Superfund program, and revising the NCP. EPA has consulted in this process with the other members of a 12-agency National Response Team and with the Office of Management and Budget. A draft of the proposed revision has been under review by these parties since October 21, 1981.