Natural Resources and Environment:

Problems and Progress in Regulating Ocean Dumping of Sewage Sludge and Industrial Wastes

CED-77-18: Published: Jan 21, 1977. Publicly Released: Jan 21, 1977.


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The problems and progress of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard in regulating the ocean dumping of sewage sludge and industrial wastes were reviewed in order to identify those areas which need improvement and to inform the Congress of the progress being made in finding and implementing alternatives to ocean dumping.

Some wastes containing harmful substances that exceeded safety levels were dumped in the ocean. The wastes were dumped too rapidly to be assimilated by the marine environment. Surveillance by the Coast Guard has been minimal. Progress has been made by EPA to phase out dumpers of industrial wastes, but the dumping of municipal wastes is expected to increase for some time in the future. Some of the proposed alternatives to ocean dumping may be more environmentally harmful when viewed in terms of the total environment.

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

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: EPA should take a lead role in locating sites that permit dumping at rates that would be safe to the marine environment and would be safe for navigation, and should consider what effect alternatives to ocean dumping would have on the total environment before phasing out ocean dumping. The U.S. Coast Guard should increase the level of ocean dumping surveillance, including the use of ship riders to monitor night dumping, and should continue to develop new methods to more effectively monitor compliance with ocean dumping permits.

    Agency Affected:

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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