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Cleanup Enforcement Program FY 2016 Accomplishments

In fiscal year (FY) 2016, EPA continues to ensure that responsible parties perform and pay for the cleanup of our nation's most contaminated sites. In doing so, the Agency protects the interests of numerous communities and environmental justice areas.

Through the cleanup enforcement program, the Agency continues to pursue two strategies: “Enforcement First” and cost recovery, which provide money and commitments to clean up sites and conserve federal funds. EPA takes enforcement actions at sites where viable, potentially responsible parties (PRPs) exist, requiring them to pay for or perform site cleanups. Enforcement enables the Agency to focus appropriated funds on sites where PRPs either do not exist or lack the funds or capability to conduct site cleanups.

To address the cleanup of contaminated sites, EPA's most often used enforcement mechanism is the Comprehensive, Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). Superfund is a cleanup authority only and does not otherwise regulate a facility's operations. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), including the Underground Storage Tank (UST) program, contains both cleanup and regulatory authorities. RCRA's cleanup authority is the RCRA Corrective Action program, which addresses cleanup activities at RCRA regulated facilities.

EPA’s Superfund enforcement program makes a difference in the lives of many Americans by helping to reduce pollution, clean up hazardous waste sites, and protect public health and our communities. To see Superfund sites across the country that are being cleaned up as a result of EPA’s enforcement efforts, we encourage you to visit the Superfund Enforcement Cleanup Work map, a new online tool developed by the cleanup enforcement program, that demonstrates the enforcement program’s efforts to get sites cleaned up. The map shows ongoing cleanup work at Superfund sites across the country that is being performed by responsible parties under EPA enforcement instruments, such as settlement agreements, consent decrees, orders, and federal facility agreements.

In FY 2016, EPA’s cleanup enforcement program:  

Over $1.1 billion in cleanup work commitments, reimbursement of past costs, and oversight payments

In fiscal year 2016, the cleanup enforcement program maintained the integrity of the Superfund program by securing over $1.1 billion in monies that will be used to clean up Superfund sites, replenish the Superfund Trust Fund, and reimburse the Agency for its past cleanup costs and administrative costs in managing the Superfund program.

Under enforcement settlements and orders approved in FY 2016, potentially responsible parties agreed to

  • Reimburse $55.3 million of EPA’s past costs for cleanup work performed at Superfund sites, and
  • Commit to spend more than $1 billion on new site cleanup work.

EPA’s Superfund enforcement program is fully committed to ensuring that those responsible for creating hazardous waste sites take the lead for cleaning up the pollution endangering communities. Under its “polluter pays” principle, EPA works to ensure that responsible parties conduct the necessary investigations and cleanup polluted sites. 

As a result of EPA’s sustained enforcement efforts, EPA has attained over $42 billion in commitments from responsible parties since 1980. Of this amount, approximately $36 billion has been committed to investigate and clean up Superfund sites, and more than $6.5 billion represents reimbursements to EPA for money the government spent cleaning up Superfund sites.

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Cleaning up contaminated sediments: FY2016 enforcement settlements result in cleaning up waterways across the country

In FY 2016, 11 enforcement instruments (settlement agreements, consent decrees, and orders) at 9 Superfund sites across the country addressed cleaning up contaminated sediments at an estimated cost of more than $314 million. Contaminated sediments continue to be a significant environmental problem that impairs the use of many waterbodies across the United States.

Cleaning up contaminated sediments to address or prevent unacceptable risk to human health and the environment can make a visible difference in communities that depend upon these water bodies for their economic livelihood, recreational activity, and as a food source.

The following is an overview of three settlements and orders reached in FY 2016 that account for more than $310 million in contaminated sediment cleanup work activity:

Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

On June 6, 2016, EPA announced an agreement with the City of New York that secures the design elements for one of two retention tanks, which is a key component to cleaning up the Gowanus Canal. The agreement also requires New York City to undertake activities to prepare that location for the tank installation and to pay EPA’s oversight costs. The estimated cost of the settlement agreement is $236 million.

Gowanus Canal is a 100-foot wide, 1.8-mile long canal in Brooklyn, New York. The canal-front is primarily commercial and industrial, currently containing concrete plants, warehouses and parking lots; several communities surround the canal. Because of the Canal’s role as a major industrial transportation route since the mid-1800, it is one of the nation’s most seriously contaminated water bodies. More than a dozen contaminants are found at high levels in canal sediments. Despite fish advisories issued for its entire length, the canal is regularly used for fishing, particularly subsistence fishing by members of environmental justice communities.

Copper Basin Mining District Superfund Site

On April 22, 2016, EPA announced settlement agreements addressing the past and future cleanup of contaminated sediments at the Copper Basin site in Copperhill, Tennessee. Under the terms of two concurrent consent decrees, OXY USA agreed to spend approximately $40 million to clean up contaminated water and sediments in the Ocoee River and its watersheds. Additionally, EPA will receive $10.8 million as reimbursement for past cleanup work conducted at the site.

One of the main environmental benefits from this recent settlement agreement is improved water quality of the Ocoee River. The cleanup work will ensure the continued treatment of water from the Davis Mill Creek and maintain the water quality of the Ocoee River. Businesses and residents of the local area depend on tourism from its seasonal rafting industry.

The Copper Basin site includes parts of two watersheds and 26-miles of the Ocoee River in Copperhill, Tenn. Site investigations found contamination in sediment, soil, and surface water that could potentially harm people in the area. Contamination resulted from waste handling practices at the site. Over the last 25 years, EPA has overseen extensive work at the site, including the construction of two water treatment plants.

Allied Paper, Inc./Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund Site (“Kalamazoo”)

On April 15, 2016, EPA issued a unilateral administrative order (UAO) to three companies (Georgia Pacific, Weyerhaeuser, and International Paper) requiring cleanup work valued at $25 – $30 million for removal of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated sediment and soil from a 1.7-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The PCB-contaminated sediment and soil resulted from paper manufacturing and disposal operations that stopped in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The cleanup work began in late summer 2016 and is expected to be completed by spring 2018. Once the contaminated material is removed, workers will test and monitor the area, backfill areas with clean soil, and restore the area with native plants.

The Kalamazoo site, which consists of soil and sediment contamination, includes disposal areas, paper mill properties, and approximately 80 miles of the Kalamazoo River, as well as adjacent riverbank and contiguous floodplains, and a 3-mile stretch of Portage Creek in Allegan and Kalamazoo counties, Michigan.

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Cleaning up groundwater and soil: cleanup enforcement program’s 5-year Strategic Plan goal met in 3 years

At the end of FY 2016, EPA’s national cleanup enforcement program exceeded its five-year Strategic Plan (FY 2014 to FY 2018) goal of having cleaned up 1.025 billion cubic yards for volume of contaminated media addressed (VCMA) in just three years. VCMA refers to hazardous substances (e.g., lead, dioxin) that are mixed with environmental media such as soil, sediment or groundwater that are cleaned up at a site. Between FY 2014 and FY 2016, enforcement settlements and orders with potentially responsible parties at sites across the country result in the cleanup of over 1.125 billion cubic yards of contaminated groundwater and soil.

Each year, the cleanup enforcement program has an annual goal of cleaning up contaminated groundwater and soil at hazardous waste sites across the country. The goal for FY 2016 is 200 million cubic yards. The national program was just shy of this goal and recorded cleanup commitments that will result in the cleanup of over 190 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and groundwater.

The top five cleanup enforcement cases in FY 2016 resulted in over 121 million cubic yards of the contaminated groundwater and soil that will be cleaned up, which is approximately 64% of the total VCMA for FY 2016.

The largest cleanup enforcement case in FY16, a consent decree valued at nearly $194 million with Wyeth Holdings Corporation, will result in the cleanup work at the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Bridgewater Township, N.J. The work will result in cleaning up over 108 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and groundwater above the Brunswick Aquifer, New Jersey’s second largest source for drinking water. Visit the American Cyanamid site case summary Web page for more information on this settlement agreement

A settlement agreement for cleanup work at the the Copper Basin Mining District Superfund site in Polk County Tennessee will result in the cleanup of over 1.5 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the Ocoee River and one of its watersheds. Under consent decrees with OXY USA, the company will conduct cleanup work valued at over $40 million. One of the main environmental benefits from this case is improved water quality of the Ocoee River. Businesses and residents of the local area depend on tourism from its seasonal rafting industry. The cleanup work will ensure the continued treatment of water from the Davis Mill Creek and maintain the water quality of the Ocoee River. Visit the Copper Basin Mining District Superfund site case summary Web page for more information on this settlement agreement.

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Models Database promotes national consistency, fairness, and efficiency in cleanup enforcement program

The cleanup enforcement program gets hazardous waste sites cleaned up by negotiating with parties to do the cleanup work themselves or pay for the cleanup to be done by someone else, or issuing an order to parties to do the cleanup work.

Under the authority of CERCLA and RCRA, EPA’s cleanup enforcement program works with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop model language and sample documents for use in negotiating settlement agreements or drafting orders. These model documents promote national consistency, fairness, and efficiency for the Agency’s cleanup enforcement program.

To ensure national consistency, the cleanup enforcement program maintains for the Agency, DOJ, and stakeholders, a public database of Superfund and RCRA revised and finalized models that are downloadable in Word from the Cleanup Enforcement Model Documents and Sample Language Database (“Models Database”).

Launched in 2014 with 17 model and sample documents, the Models Database now contains 56 model and sample documents and provides access to all of the national cleanup enforcement program’s judicial and administrative settlement agreements and unilateral administrative orders used to negotiate with or issue to potentially responsible parties. The model documents in this database also contain links to "supporting documents" (cover memoranda and other related guidance) and include a "revision history" explaining any changes made to the model since issuance.

In FY 2016, the cleanup enforcement program issued the following model documents:

  • Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent
  • Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study Unilateral Administrative Order
  • Remedial Design Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent
  • Remedial Design Statement of Work
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act § 3008(h) Administrative Order on Consent

Important Environmental Benefits Realized by the Federal Facility Superfund Program

This past year was also an important year for EPA’s federal facility Superfund program with enforcement actions contributing environmental benefits and protection to land and ground water in 2016. EPA oversees Federal agencies’ cleanups at National Priorities List sites and, where necessary, ensures that Federal agencies meet their cleanup obligations through enforcement. 

Of particular note, EPA secured cleanup and proper disposal of landfill waste, and the restoration of surface water, at the Gorst Creek Landfill in Port Orchard, WA. At this site, the Navy agreed to pay over $27 million to cover EPA’s expenses for removal and disposal of contamination the Navy had disposed of at the site. Gorst Creek, a tributary of the Puget Sound, provides critical habitat for salmon and other aquatic species, and flows through the landfill. The landfill is upstream from a local park, municipal wells, a state highway, and a fish hatchery operated by the Suquamish Indian tribe. Gorst Creek also flows into Sinclair Inlet, another critical habitat for wildlife, and a vibrant source of recreation to many in Washington state. Contaminants of concern in the landfill included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides and metals such as lead, arsenic, and chromium. More information on the is available on the Gorst Creek Landfill agreement case summary page.

At the Umatilla Army Depot in Oregon, EPA and the Army agreed to a $125,000 penalty settlement to resolve Army violations of CERCLA, in particular, the Army’s failure to comply with several remedial action requirements for addressing munitions and explosives of concern at the site.  These actions are critical to ensuring the future health and safety of personnel on the site, as well as the environment.

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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 2016 are available on the Agency’s Cases and Settlements Database.