Site Cleanup to Restore Ecosystems and Watersheds
Some USDA-managed lands and former USDA facilities are affected by environmental contamination from hazardous materials. In general, the contamination occurred from historical materials and waste management practices predating the era of modern environmental regulation, which began in the 1970s.
State and local economies rely on USDA-managed lands for the many benefits and services they provide, including drinking and irrigation water, fishing, camping, boating, swimming, hiking, and subsistence hunting and gathering. Response and Restoration is involved in funding priority projects for ecosystem and watershed restoration efforts on USDA-managed lands that have been adversely affected by hazardous materials.
In August 1985, USDA initiated a nationwide inventory to determine the size and scope of existing and potential environmental problems associated with hazardous materials on USDA-managed lands and former USDA facilities. The inventory identified numerous sites involving storage, handling, and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. The inventory also identified thousands of potential sites with releases or potential releases of hazardous substances, including underground fuel and chemical storage tanks, abandoned mines, landfills, dumps, trespass dumps, and illegal drug lab wastes. Many of these site problems are attributable to the activity of non-USDA parties on lands under USDA jurisdiction, custody, or control. USDA aggressively employs its authorities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and related executive orders to expedite cleanups.
The Response and Restoration (R&R) Team provides guidance, assistance, and oversight of compliance with hazardous materials requirements by USDA programs and facilities. The R&R team also manages the Hazardous Materials Management Appropriation (HMMA) first established in 1998 to provide funding for high priority cleanup actions. USDA prioritizes cleanups to ensure that the most significant liabilities are addressed first in order to protect human health and the environment and preserve natural resources.