On September 1, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the new 2030 Vision, Mission, and Goals for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action hazardous waste facility cleanup program. The announcement came during the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) RCRA Corrective Action Conference following a summary of the agency’s progress towards the previously established 2020 goals.
Corrective Action and EPA’s 2020 Goals
EPA’s Corrective Action Program applies to nearly 4,000 facilities nationwide that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous wastes. The program requires these facilities to clean up soil, groundwater, and surface water contamination on or from the facility, with specific goals in mind. Until the unveiling of the 2030 goals, the program was driven by goals developed in 2004 that had a completion deadline of 2020.
The 2020 vision was to have 95% of the 3,379 baseline facilities meet progress goals in three primary areas: Human Exposures Under Control, Migration of Contaminated Groundwater Under Control, and Remedy Construction. EPA referred to these areas of focus as Environmental Indicators (EIs) and has been tracking related progress over the last two decades. On September 1, 2020, EPA reported the following accomplishments related to the EIs for this year:
- Human Exposures Under Control at 96% of the baseline facilities
- Migration of Contaminated Groundwater Under Control at 91% of the baseline facilities
- Remedy Construction at 79% of the baseline facilities
EPA’s RCRA Goals for 2030
Earlier this year, the EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) reached out to a diverse set of stakeholders to develop a new RCRA Corrective Action Program for the next 10 years, resulting in a new vision, mission, and set of goals. Here is what EPA announced as its 2030 Vision, Mission, and Goals for the program:
New Vision (the WHY)
RCRA Corrective Action cleanups support healthy and sustainable communities where people and the environment are protected from hazardous contamination today and into the future.
New Mission (the HOW and WHAT)
EPA, states, and tribal partners work together to ensure that owners and operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities conduct effective and efficient cleanups to protect human health and the environment, support continued use, and make land ready for reuse including, if necessary, placement of controls to protect communities into the future.
The Five 2030 Goals
- Through 2030, the RCRA Corrective Action Program will ensure that RCRA cleanups are initiated and completed efficiently and expeditiously. Commitments regarding what work is planned and what progress is made will be visible to the public. An ambitious universe of cleanups will be identified for completion by 2030.
For commitments and tracking, the program will use the relevant Corrective Action Program measures and will use flexible approaches appropriate for each region and state.
- By 2030, the RCRA Corrective Action Program will eliminate or control adverse impacts beyond facility boundaries at RCRA Corrective Action facilities wherever practicable and the program will focus attention on cleanups that will not meet this target.
The program will develop procedures to:
- identify and address emerging risk issues (e.g., vapor intrusion, evolving science), and
- address timelines for facilities brought into the program post-2020.
- By 2030, the RCRA Corrective Action Program will ensure or confirm that land within facility boundaries at RCRA Corrective Action facilities will be safe for continued use or reasonably foreseeable new uses wherever practicable and the program will focus attention on cleanups that will not meet this target.
The program will develop procedures to address timelines for facilities brought into the program post-2020.
- By 2025, the RCRA Corrective Action Program will identify the key elements of effective Long Term Stewardship for Corrective Action cleanups, and regions and states will have approaches in place to ensure implementation of the key elements.
The program will develop procedures to leverage interest and investment in new or existing commercial and community entities to sustain Long Term Stewardship controls.
- By 2022, program procedures will be in place to regularly adjust the universe of facilities in the cleanup pipeline to reflect current program priorities.
Since EPA delegates the management of Corrective Action to most states, it will be important to watch how different states adopt and embrace these new goals. For example, some states may now increase the importance for a facility to address onsite and offsite impacts based on 2030 Goals 2 and 3.
EPA has not yet elaborated if states will have metrics for tracking progress towards meeting these five goals by 2030. For questions about RCRA and state regulations, guidance, and policies, please contact us.