2000 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 11:14:03 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] Report Finds Potential Public Danger in EPA Superfund Practice
[Original message from Eric Coppenger <coppenger@eli.org>]

Report Finds Potential Public Danger in EPA Superfund Practice 

Public safety measures used at many Superfund sites sometimes fail
in the long run, possibly jeopardizing human health and the environment,
according to a new ELI report. The measures, which are
called "institutional controls," are often used at hazardous waste sites
where for a variety of reasons some contamination is allowed to
remain in place. Institutional controls are legal and administrative
mechanisms that limit land use at such sites to those appropriate to the
level of cleanup, or seek to modify human behavior to limit exposure to
remaining contamination. Examples include deed restrictions, groundwater
use restrictions, educational programs, or even warning signs. 

    Protecting Public Health at Superfund Sites: Can Institutional
Controls Meet the Challenge? uses case studies of four sites on
EPA's National Priorities List. "Many of the institutional controls
implemented at these sites have been successful, but others have
failed," according to Senior Attorney John Pendergrass, co-author of

the report. "And because the successful ones have only been in place
for a limited time it is not clear they will succeed over the long-term." 

    ELI's research also revealed that institutional controls are not being
monitored in a routine and consistent manner at all sites where they are in
place.  Although EPA is required to review every five years all remedies at
sites where contamination is left in place, this may not be frequent enough
to avoid failures of some institutional controls, because circumstances,
such as ownership, can change rapidly. 

    In their analysis of why these safety measures can fail, the
researchers discovered that the entire process involving use of
institutional controls has sometimes been poorly documented, and
selection of the controls  has often failed to include adequate
stakeholder input, according to Senior Attorney Linda Breggin, another
co-author. "Early cooperation and coordination among federal, state,
and local governments - along with a strong public role - in the
selection, implementation, and operation of institutional controls is
critical to their long-term success." 

    Specifically, the study discovered that at some sites the institutional
controls that would ultimately be used were not evaluated at the
appropriate time - during the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility
Study, which is the formal process used to evaluate cleanup
alternatives at Superfund sites. Sometimes the controls have been
selected after the decisionmaking phase on how to handle the cleanup
had been completed and published - the Record of Decision process
- reducing public input even further.   "Obviously, leaving evaluation
and selection of institutional controls out of these formal processes
helps to create the exact problems we discovered," said Pendergrass. 
"It can hinder public participation, result in conflicts among
regulators, and lead to poor documentation of selected controls.  We
recommend that a detailed investigation and analysis of potential
institutional controls be part of these procedures." 

    Another important finding from ELI's research is that community
awareness, acceptance, and compliance with institutional controls is
essential to their success.  "Well-designed community outreach and
educational programs tailored to meet the needs of the particular
community are a critical part to the solution of the problems we
discovered," said Pendergrass. 

    Copies of Protecting Public Health at Superfund Sites: Can
Institutional Controls Meet the Challenge?  cost $20 and can be
ordered at (202) 939-3844 or (800) 433-5120, or <orders@eli.org>.
The report is also available for free in PDF format at
<www.eli.org/bookstore/rrinstitutionalcontrols00.htm>.  Links are
provided in the text above. 

If you do not want to receive news of future ELI reports which might
be of interest to you, please send a message with your request to

Eric Coppenger 
Foundation & Outreach Associate 
Environmental Law Institute 
1616 P Street, NW 
Washington, DC 20036 
(202) 939-3248 
(202) 939-3868 FAX 
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