Key Issues > Hazardous Waste
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Hazardous Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that one in four Americans lives within 3 miles of a contaminated site, many of which pose serious risks to human health and the environment.

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The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 authorizes EPA and other federal agencies to respond to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances and created a trust fund to provide for certain cleanup activities. EPA regulates facilities that may cause contamination and oversees the cleanup of the nation’s most seriously contaminated sites under a variety of programs. Similarly, the Department of Defense (DOD) addresses hazards at thousands of contaminated areas on active and former military installations.

EPA’s National Priorities List includes over a thousand of the nation’s most seriously contaminated hazardous release sites, many of which pose unacceptable human exposure or unknown human exposure risks. In addition, former defense sites can pose hazards such as unsafe buildings, a variety of toxic and radioactive wastes, and ordnance and explosive compounds. DOD is obligated to ensure that former defense sites are cleaned up to a level that is protective of human health and the environment. DOD has identified over 4,000 formerly used defense sites, which were closed before October 2006, and over 5,000 sites identified by several Base Realignment and Closure commissions that require cleanup.

Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Defense Infrastructure:

DOD Can Improve Its Response to Environmental Exposures on Military Installations
GAO-12-412:
Published: May 1, 2012. Publicly Released: May 2, 2012.

Superfund:

Superfund:

Environmental Contamination:

Information on the Funding and Cleanup Status of Defense Sites
GAO-10-547T:
Published: Mar 17, 2010. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 2010.

Superfund:

More Reports

Hazardous Waste Cleanup:

Observations on States' Role, Liabilities at DOD and Hardrock Mining Sites, and Litigation Issues
GAO-13-633T:
Published: May 22, 2013. Publicly Released: May 22, 2013.

Superfund:

Recovery Act:

Most DOE Cleanup Projects Are Complete, but Project Management Guidance Could Be Strengthened
GAO-13-23:
Published: Oct 15, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2012.

Unconventional Oil and Gas Development:

Key Environmental and Public Health Requirements
GAO-12-874:
Published: Sep 5, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 9, 2012.

Superfund:

Status of EPA's Efforts to Improve Its Management and Oversight of Special Accounts
GAO-12-109:
Published: Jan 18, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 2012.

Environmental Protection Agency:

Management Challenges and Budget Observations
GAO-12-149T:
Published: Oct 12, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 12, 2011.

EPA Health Risk Assessments:

Oversight and Sustained Management Key to Overcoming Challenges
GAO-12-148T:
Published: Oct 6, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 6, 2011.

Hazardous Waste:

Environmental Protection Agency:

Major Management Challenges
GAO-11-422T:
Published: Mar 2, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 2011.

Superfund:

Information on the Nature and Costs of Cleanup Activities at Three Landfills in the Gulf Coast Region
GAO-11-287R:
Published: Feb 18, 2011. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 2011.
More...

Podcasts

Superfund Costs and CleanupTuesday, June 22, 2010
  • portrait of Alfredo Gomez
    • Alfredo Gomez
    • Director, Natural Resources and Environment
    • gomezj@gao.gov
    • 202-512-3841