PNL has noted recent news about a mid-October 2019 GAO report titled EPA Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change. The report evaluated the potential for adverse climatic effects on Superfund sites in terms of flooding, storm surge, wildfires, and sea level rise. Each individual Superfund site in the US is evaluated and rated for its potential impact by location. Data included the FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer for flood hazards, the NOAA SLOSH Model for storm surge, a NOAA SLR Model for sea level rise and the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire hazard potential map. PNL reviewed the report and we provide a brief summary.
The GAO report concludes:
- “Climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of certain natural disasters, which could damage Superfund sites-the nation’s most contaminated hazardous waste sites.
- Federal data suggests about 60 percent of Superfund sites overseen by EPA are in areas that may be impacted by wildfires and different types of flooding-natural hazards that may be exacerbated by climate change.
- We (GAO) found that EPA has taken some actions to manage risks at these sites. However, we recommend it provide direction on integrating climate information into site-level decision making to ensure long-term protection of human health and the environment.”
The GAO Report recommendations include:
- Recommendation 1: The Director of the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation should establish a schedule for standardizing and improving information on the boundaries of nonfederal NPL sites.
- Recommendation 2: The Administrator of EPA should clarify how EPA’s actions to manage risks to human health and the environment from the potential impacts of climate change effects at nonfederal NPL sites align with the agency’s current goals and objectives.
- Recommendation 3: The Director of the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation should provide direction on how to integrate information on the potential impacts of climate change effects into risk assessments at nonfederal NPL sites.
- Recommendation 4: The Director of the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation should provide direction on how to integrate information on the potential impacts of climate change effects into risk response decisions at nonfederal NPL sites.
In the future, to address potential climate change issues for affected sites:
- The design of the remedy will consider the potential effects of climate change.
- The remedy will be closely monitored to ensure the effectiveness the remedy over time.
- The PRPs are funding the design and construction of the remedy and it is the PRP’s best interest to ensure the remedy is designed for appropriate future conditions.
- EPA has released a Climate Change Adaptation Technical Fact Sheets for Contaminated Sediment Remedies. PNL would suggest that we would follow USEPA’s guidance to identify, prioritize, and implement site-specific measures for increasing remedy resilience to climate change effects.
Article from The Washington Post: 60% of Superfund sites could be hit by climate change, new government report finds
For reference only: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-20-73