This chapter focuses on the remedial objectives dictated by the common regulatory frameworks under which groundwater cleanup generally occurs. It first describes the phases of cleanup for the primary federal programs and their milestones, the gaining of which is often used as a metric of progress and ultimately success. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) guidance outline criteria for setting remedial objectives and points of compliance, and for selecting remedies to meet them. The chapter closes with a discussion of alternative strategies to address the current limitations on achieving groundwater restoration, such as CERCLA Technical Impracticability waivers for some portion of the site. This includes sustainability concepts that have become relevant to decision making regarding remedy selection and modification in the past few years.
The topic of setting cleanup objectives has a long history and was a significant component of the debates in the 1980s during the passage of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) in 1986 and the establishment of the ARAR process in Section 121 of SARA. Several National Research Council (NRC) reports (1994, 2005) have provided insights and recommendations on improving the process of establishing objectives for groundwater cleanup. The DoD has also provided recommendations for setting objectives through reports published through the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (e.g., Sale and Newell, 2011). Recently the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) provided a comprehensive guidance document on setting objectives for remediation at DNAPL sites (ITRC, 2011). All these efforts have informed this overview of the objective setting process, which considers how that process might evolve in light of advances in our understanding of technical limitations to aquifer restoration.
The current regulatory framework for remediation of hazardous waste sites evolved from a complex collection of federal, state, tribal, and even local statutes, regulations, and policies. CERCLA and RCRA are the two federal programs that govern most subsurface cleanup efforts, and most state programs are similar to or even authorized under these federal models.
CERCLA provides federal authority for cleanup of sites with hazardous substances, usually excluding petroleum-only sites. At sites with no viable responsible party, EPA can fund remedial activities from the Superfund—a special account initially funded by a tax on petroleum and chemical compa-