although contamination at levels above those allowing for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure may still remain on-site. In addition, the DoD has directed 90 percent of sites at active installations to achieve response complete by the end of FY 2018, and 95 percent by the end of FY 2021 (Conger, 2011). These goals will be extremely challenging to meet because at many of the military’s remaining sites that have groundwater contamination, one can anticipate the need for long-term management that may take many decades to resolve.

In this context, the Water Science and Technology Board, under auspices of the National Research Council (NRC), initiated a study to assess the future of the nation’s subsurface remediation efforts, with a particular focus on technical, economic, and institutional challenges facing the Army and other responsible parties as they pursue aggressive programmatic goals for site closure. It should be noted that there is no single definition of “site closure,” nor was the Committee able to agree on a precise consensus definition of the term that would be applicable to all state and federal programs. The term is often used to mean that “no further action” is required at a site (except for various institutional controls)—a connotation that the Committee is comfortable with. However, “no further action” does not mean that site contaminants have been reduced to levels below those allowing for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure. Whenever possible throughout this report, the term “site closure” is replaced with the more specific designations for success used by the various federal and state remediation programs. Chapter 7 abandons the terms “site closure” and “no further action” entirely and instead presents three end states, one of which all sites will achieve: active long-term management, passive long-term management, and achievement of unlimited use and unrestricted exposure levels. The central theme of this report is how the nation will deal with the complex hazardous waste sites where contamination remains in place at levels above those allowing for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure.


The federal regulatory regime for responding to groundwater contamination consists of several key statutes and regulations enforced primarily by the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (see Box 1-2 for an overview of the major U.S. cleanup programs). Designed to address problems related to municipal and industrial waste, RCRA was passed in 1976 and promoted recovery methods and techniques to reduce waste generation while also outlining environmentally sound management of hazardous and nonhazardous wastes. In 1980, Congress passed the Superfund Law (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement