Hazardous Waste:

Benefits of EPA's Information System Are Limited

AIMD-95-167: Published: Aug 22, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on whether the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Resource Conservation and Recovery Information System (RCRIS) is meeting its primary objectives and its effect on implementation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

GAO found that: (1) RCRIS does not meet its overall goal of helping EPA and the states manage the hazardous waste program; (2) most users of RCRIS do not rely on the system because they find data entry and retrieval to be too difficult; (3) RCRIS data are not reliable because the system requires users to manually verify data; and (4) RCRIS shortfalls have not significantly affected RCRA implementation because users do not consider the system to be the key tool for program management and have developed workarounds.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: As a part of the recently initiated reassessment of RCRA information needs, the Administrator, EPA, should require the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to develop and implement a cost-effective solution for meeting identified needs.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to EPA officials, this recommendation is addressed in the agency's WIN initiative. OSW has completed an Information Strategy Plan and has established an Executive Steering Committee for the WIN Effort. This committee helps guide implementation options and overall direction, taking cost into consideration.

    Recommendation: As a part of the recently initiated reassessment of RCRA information needs, the Administrator, EPA, should require the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to develop a data quality assurance program that establishes data reliability standards and methods to ensure data reliability.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to EPA officials, the agency is addressing this recommendation through its WIN initiative. Data quality standards are part of EPA's Program Area Analyses. However, after four years, this effort is still not complete and EPA officials could not provide firm milestones for completing it.

    Recommendation: As a part of the recently initiated reassessment of RCRA information needs, the Administrator, EPA, should require the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to develop clear data definitions for all EPA-required data.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to EPA officials, the agency is addressing this recommendation within its Waste Information Needs (WIN) initiative. A key principle in the WIN Information Strategy Plan is to develop consistent data definitions. However, after four years, this effort is still not complete and EPA officials could not provide firm milestones for completing it.

    Recommendation: As a part of the recently initiated reassessment of RCRA information needs, the Administrator, EPA, should require the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to determine what information EPA needs to oversee states' implementation of RCRA.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action to address this recommendation is within the scope of the Office of Solid Waste's (OSW) Waste Information Needs (WIN) initiative. OSW has completed an Information Strategy Plan to guide the information and technology needs of the hazardous waste program. The plan includes an Information Needs Assessment that identifies high-level information needs of EPA, states, and tribes.

    Recommendation: In the interim, given the burden RCRIS imposes on the states and the lack of EPA's reliance on the system, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to assess the data reporting requirements to RCRIS and eliminate those that are identified as nonessential.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has continued its actions to reduce the burden of RCRIS reporting. Streamlining proposals include further reducing required permitting, closure, post-closure, and corrective action event tracking data. These actions are part of an ongoing effort to pursue near-term, low-cost improvements to RCRA information management methods and systems to reduce the complexity or maintenance burden of RCRA information management. EPA has a process in place for reviewing streamlining proposals and incorporating these into future RCRIS releases.

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