RCRA Corrective Action versus Cercla Response

The cleanup of a site with hazardous waste contamination may be handled under either CERCLA, as described above, or RCRA. RCRA authorizes U.S. EPA to require corrective action (under an enforcement order or as part of a permit) whenever there is, or has been, a release of hazardous waste or constituents at TSDFs. The RCRA statute also provides similar corrective action authority in response to releases at interim status facilities. Further, RCRA allows U.S. EPA to require corrective action beyond the facility boundary. U.S. EPA interprets the term "corrective action" to cover the full range of possible actions, from studies and interim measures to full cleanups. Anyone who violates a corrective action order can be fined up to $27,500/d of noncompliance and runs the risk of having their permit or interim status suspended or revoked.

RCRA and CERCLA cleanup programs follow roughly the same approach to cleanups. In both, examinations of available data are carried out after discovery of a release to determine whether an emergency action is warranted. Both programs authorize short-term measures to abate immediate adverse effects of a release. Once an emergency has been addressed, both programs provide for appropriate investigation and more investigation as needed to establish long-term cleanup options. One major difference between the two programs involves funding. CERCLA requires that site conditions be analyzed according to HRS and that only NPL sites receive any remedial action funding. There is no comparable requirement under the RCRA corrective action program because the owner or operator of the site is responsible for the cost of the cleanup.

The facility owner or operator implements RCRA corrective action. On the other hand, a number of different parties can implement a CERCLA remedial action in a number of different ways. For example, agreements may be reached that allow the PRPs, the State, or the federal government to assume the lead for certain portions of a response action.

Generally, cleanups under RCRA corrective action or CERCLA will substantively satisfy the requirements of both programs. It is U.S. EPA's general policy for facilities subject to both CERCLA and RCRA to be deferred to RCRA authority. In some cases, however, it may be more appropriate to use both RCRA and CERCLA authorities. U.S. EPA has many procedures in place to facilitate coordination between RCRA and CERCLA programs.

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