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Superfund: Institutional Controls

Institutional controls are non-engineered instruments such as administrative and legal controls that help minimize the potential for human exposure to contamination and/or protect the integrity of the remedy. It is EPA's expectation that treatment or engineering controls will be used to address principal threat wastes and that groundwater will be returned to its beneficial use whenever practicable. Institutional controls play an important role in site remedies because they reduce exposure to contamination by limiting land or resource use and guide human behavior. For instance, zoning restrictions prevent land uses – such as residential uses – that are not consistent with the level of cleanup.

Institutional controls are used when contamination is first discovered, when cleanups are ongoing and when residual contamination remains on site at a level that does not allow for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure after cleanup. The NCP emphasizes that institutional controls are meant to supplement engineering controls and that they will rarely be the sole remedy at a site.