U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Policy and Guidance

PCBs have been designated as a hazardous substance pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 and as a toxic chemical under Section 313 of Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986. Title III of SARA—also known as "The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986"—specifies that owners and operators of certain facilities that have PCBs on their sites in amounts exceeding a specified reporting threshold are required to report annually releases of PCBs to any environmental medium. The owners and operators of these facilities also are required to immediately report releases of PCBs to environmental media if the amount released exceeds the "reportable quantity" of one pound.

The statutory sources for designating PCBs as CERCLA hazardous substance are sections 311(b)(4) and 307(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), and section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The statutory reportable quantity for PCBs is established by Section 102 of CERCLA. PCBs are regulated by the Clean Water Effluent Guidelines as stated in 40 CFR 400-475 (Code of Federal Regulations). For each point source category, PCBs may be regulated as a group of chemicals controlled as total toxic organics or may have a specific regulatory limitation. The point source categories for which PCBs are controlled as a total toxic organic include electroplating and metal finishing. The point source category for which PCB has a specific regulatory limitation is steam electric power generating.

Waters and their sediments contaminated by atmospheric deposition and discharges of PCBs have resulted in over 675 advisories restricting the consumption of PCB-contaminated fish, shellfish, and wildlife issued in 37 states and in one U.S. Territory (American Samoa). The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) bans manufacturing, processing, and distributing PCBs in commerce. It also bans the use of PCBs outside of totally enclosed systems.

On June 29, 1998, EPA published amendments in the Federal Register to the regulatory requirements for the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, use, cleanup, storage, and disposal of PCBs. The amendments contained in the final rule are codified in 40 CFR 750 and 40 CFR 761. Some of the substances regulated by the requirements in 40 CFR 761 are dielectric fluids, solvents, oil, waste oils, heat transfer fluids, hydraulic fluids, paints or coatings, sludges, slurries, sediments, dredge spoils, soils, and materials containing PCBs as a result of spills. The regulatory applicability for these substances depends in part on the concentration of PCBs present. The requirements for the disposal of PCB liquids and PCB items are codified at 40 CFR 761.60. Disposal requirements for PCB remediation waste or PCB bulk product waste are codified in 40 CFR 761.61 and 761.62, respectively. When the components of a waste are PCBs and non-PCB contaminants, and the PCB component is approved for disposal, the non-PCB component must meet the requirements of all other applicable statues or regulatory authorities prior to disposal.

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The 2004 National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories (NLFWA)

PCB Question and Answer Manual
U.S. EPA, 2014.


Adobe PDF LogoEvaluation and Review of Best Management Practices for the Reduction of Polychlorinated Biphenyls to the Chesapeake Bay
Needham, T.P., E. Majcher, E. Foss, and O.H. Devereux.
USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2023-5074, 26 pp, 2024

This review focuses on PCB reduction practices and BMPs to assist management decision-making and provide information on the current state of the science. Studies have quantitatively demonstrated the efficacy of green infrastructure BMPs and gray infrastructure improvements to reduce PCB loads, and other studies have demonstrated qualitative reductions for other BMP types. The review also highlights the disconnect between PCB load reduction and PCB bioavailability when selecting a remediation strategy, evaluates modeling approaches to assess PCB load reduction to inform management decisions, and suggests reasons why there are still significant barriers to implementation.

Adobe PDF LogoField Manual for Grid Sampling of PCB Spill Sites to Verify Cleanup
U.S. EPA, Office of Toxic Substances.
EPA 560-5-86-017, 1986.
Contact: John Smith,

Adobe PDF LogoFramework Guidance Manual for In Situ Wetland Restoration Demonstration
Ruiz, N., J. Bleiler, and K. Gardner.
ESTCP Project ER-200825, 83 pp, 2016

This manual is a guide to the use of in situ reactive amendment technologies for remediation of contaminated wetland hydric soils, providing a toolbox of methods with which to approach site characterization/monitoring, treatability testing and demonstration, and remedy implementation. This manual (1) provides collected literature sources for active in situ remedial projects; (2) outlines a conceptual approach to managing the remediation of wetland hydric soils; (3) offers suggestions for project objectives, metrics, and evaluation criteria; (4) discusses implementation means and methods; and (5) supports an assessment of technology cost. This guide is based upon a field demonstration conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground to determine the most effective amendment to immobilize PCBs in wetland sediments. Additional information: ESTCP Cost & Performance ReportAdobe PDF Logo

Adobe PDF LogoGuidance for Assessing Chemical Contaminant Data for Use in Fish Advisories, Volume 1: Fish Sampling and Analysis, Sections 4.3.6 and
U.S. EPA, Office of Water.
EPA 823-R-95-007, 472 pp, 1995.

Adobe PDF LogoGuidance on Remedial Actions for Superfund Sites with PCB Contamination
U.S. EPA, Office of Emergency and Remedial Response.
EPA 540-G-90-007, Directive 9355.4-01, 152 pp, 1990.

Adobe PDF LogoA Guide on Remedial Actions at Superfund Sites with PCB Contamination. Quick Reference Fact Sheet
U.S. EPA, Office of Emergency and Remedial Response.
OSWER Directive 9355.4-01FS, 5 pp, Aug 1990.

Adobe PDF LogoLocating and Estimating Air Emission Sources of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB)
U.S. EPA, Office of Air and Radiation.
EPA 450-4-84-007N, 82 pp, 1987.

Adobe PDF LogoPCB Facility Approval Streamlining Toolbox (FAST): A Framework for Streamlining PCB Site Cleanup Approvals
EPA 530-F-17-002, 56 pp, 2017

In October 2014, EPA Region 9 conducted the "Lean Six Sigma" event to identify potential process improvements for its PCB cleanup program. The event team developed a list of potential actions to reduce the time and effort required to approve and facilitate their PCB cleanups. Before the event, it took Region 9 an average of 80 days to review and approve an initial PCB cleanup plan. Amendments to the cleanup plan generally took another 56 days to approve. Lean Six Sigma participants developed over 25 separate recommendations for internal EPA process improvements and external tools to improve the quality of cleanup applications and notifications. The process improvements, measures, and tools in this document are available to be used to accelerate the pace of PCB cleanups in all 10 EPA regions.

Adobe PDF LogoPolychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Site Revitalization Guidance Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
U.S. EPA, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances
OPPT/2004/0123, 87 pp, 2005

Adobe PDF LogoSampling Guidance for 40 CFR 761 Subparts M, O, P, and R
Contact: John Smith,

Adobe PDF LogoWaste Analysis at Facilities That Generate, Treat, Store, and Dispose of Hazardous Wastes: a Guidance Manual
U.S. EPA, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
OSWER 9938.4-03, ECDIC-2002-011, 200 pp, 1994.


Adobe PDF Logo40 CFR 761: Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Manufacturing, Processing, Distribution in Commerce, and Use Prohibitions
Code of Federal Regulations.

Adobe PDF LogoMulti-Media Investigation Manual
U.S. EPA, Office of Enforcement.
EPA 330-9-89-003-R, 234 pp, 1992.

Adobe PDF LogoTSCA Disposal Requirements for Fluorescent Light Ballasts
Contact: Dave Hannemann,


PCB Bulk Product Waste Reinterpretation
U.S. EPA, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, 3 pp, 24 Oct 2012

EPA has published a memorandum that finalizes a reinterpretation of its position regarding PCB-contaminated building materials and specifically addresses the definitions of bulk product waste (e.g., PCB-contaminated caulk or paint) and remediation waste (e.g., PCB-contaminated masonry or concrete). This distinction affects the appropriate cleanup requirements and disposal options. The reinterpretation will allow building material (i.e., substrate) "coated or serviced" with PCB bulk product waste (e.g., caulk, paint, mastics, sealants) at the time of disposal to be managed as a PCB bulk product waste, even if the PCBs have migrated from the overlying bulk product waste into the substrate. A diagram on the EPA website highlights the changes to the definitions.

Adobe PDF LogoPolychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) Penalty Policy
U.S. EPA, Office of Enforcement.
EC-P-1998-43, 46 pp, 1990.

Adobe PDF LogoProtocol for Conducting Environmental Compliance Audits of Facilities with PCBs, Asbestos, and Lead-Based Paint Regulated under TSCA
U.S. EPA, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
EPA 300-B-00-004, 240 pp, 2000.