The connection between the Triad and RCRA/CERCLA cleanup stages is the need to manage decision uncertainty through information gathering.
The United States Congress created two major environmental regulatory authorities to control most environmental remediation and restoration activities. They are RCRA, passed in 1976, and CERCLA, enacted in 1980. Both RCRA and CERCLA were later amended, RCRA in 1984 by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA), and CERCLA by the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA) in 1986. RCRA was amended two additional times, but these other amendments are of lesser importance and do not apply directly to corrective actions.
The purpose of RCRA is to protect human health and the environment at operating facilities by ensuring that as-generated wastes are properly managed. The corrective action aspects of RCRA as established by HSWA focus on remediating past contaminant releases at active RCRA facilities. CERCLA was intended to address uncontrolled releases of hazardous substances from facilities no longer in operation (i.e., historical sites). Because of their different focus, some unique, specific actions are required under each authority and each has its own lexicon. For contaminated sites, however, CERCLA and RCRA corrective actions are conceptually quite similar, as each strives to mitigate risks to human health and the environment and return sites to beneficial reuse.
In addition to the regulatory authorities of RCRA and CERCLA, state-led VCUPs began to emerge in the early 1990s to expedite the characterization and cleanup of industrial and commercial properties with contamination problems. VCUPs were created to streamline the remediation process at sites with the following attributes:
Many states have adopted VCUP programs. When VCUP sites are restored for commercial, industrial, or public reuse, they are commonly referred to as Brownfields sites. These programs are administered by local, state, or municipal organizations.
Besides state and Federal programs, the need to address potential CERCLA liability during property transactions has led to the development of a formalized site assessment approach known as the Environmental Due Diligence Audit (EDDA). The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) provides standard practices and guidance for conducting the investigations that are part of an EDDA. The goal of these practices is to permit a user to satisfy one of the requirements to qualify for the innocent landowner defense against CERCLA liability: the practices must constitute "all appropriate inquiry into the previous ownership and uses of the property consistent with good commercial or customary practice."
Regardless of whether site work is being conducted under CERCLA, RCRA, a VCUP or EDDA or some other program or authority, there will be the need to make important decision based on sampling information obtained from the site at various points in the process. The purpose is to determine whether or not site contamination actually exists at levels of concern. This is the primary connection between the Triad and each of these programs. The Triad provides an approach for designing and implementing data collection efforts that can yield significant cost, schedule, and decision quality benefits for cleanup programs. The following sections describe CERCLA, RCRA correction actions, VCUP and the EDDA process in more detail, focusing on where decision points and the collection of site information are important.