The decision-making process at federal Superfund sites
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The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, was created in 1980 to address hazardous waste pollution that may impact public health and the environment. Over the past 35 years, millions of dollars have been spent on this program, but there have been repeated observations of non-success in closing sites. Some possible explanations include technical infeasibilities, insufficient resources, and flawed decision making. The research described in this thesis focuses on the formal decision making process by conducting an examination of published Records of Decision (RODs). Observations from this process will form the basis for future hypothesis driven research. A sample of approximately 300 RODs was analyzed, uniformly distributed over three time periods (1995-2000, 2001-2006, 2007-2012) and across the 10 EPA Regions. Attributes of the decision process were excerpted into a database containing detailed information about costs, technologies selected, and the comparison of alternatives utilizing 9 Qualitative Criteria. Statistical and qualitative evaluations were performed to identify trends, patterns, and influential factors in the remedy selection process. The results of the analyses were assembled to generate hypotheses for future research related to the beliefs, values, and assumptions that shape Superfund remedy selection, with a focus on the trade-offs between the historical focus on aggressive remediation and recent policies that favor long-term management.