Written by Andrew Bajorat, CHMM, Principal at BBJ Group
The U.S. EPA recently released its four-year strategic plan, and consistent with previous statements, Administrator Pruitt is focused on a “back to basics” agenda, focused largely on air, drinking water, and Superfund and brownfield cleanups. In addition, the plan places a heavy emphasis on increased state-level involvement in all programs. Key takeaways are discussed below.
Administrator Pruitt makes special note that accelerating cleanups is of particular importance to the agency. Specifically, the EPA is focused on returning contaminated properties to productive use, with goals for closing the following by September 2022:
255 Superfund sites
3,420 Brownfield sites
536 RCRA corrective action facilities
56,000 LUST incidents.
However, consistent with other recent entries in BBJ Group’s blog, the EPA emphasized the emerging importance of 1) polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as groundwater contaminants, and 2) vapor intrusion as an exposure pathway as obstacles to these goals, as well as possible re-openers for previously closed sites.
Not surprisingly, given recent challenges in Flint, Michigan, the EPA’s strategic plan prioritizes improving the quality of community drinking water systems and infrastructure. The EPA intends to promote these improvements through the State Revolving Fund and leveraging mechanisms through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Consistent with the Trump administration’s desire to rebalance state vs. federal authority on projects, the EPA will require matching state or private contributions to access this funding.
Of the three environmental media, air seems to receive less emphasis in the EPA’s Strategic Plan relative to land or water. The plan sets a goal of reducing the number of non-attainment areas from 166 to 101; however, the plan does not specify strategies for doing so.
Interestingly, in addition to reducing the number of non-attainment areas, the plan also makes note that the Agency may have evolving policies on radioactive waste management and uranium extraction technologies. The plan does not specify drivers for this emphasis nor what the policy changes may be beyond focusing on increasing formal and informal training with regard to radiation safety and health physics.