Hazardous Waste Facilities With Interim Status May Be Endangering Public Health and the Environment

CED-81-158: Published: Sep 28, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 7, 1981.

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When the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was enacted, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was directed to develop regulations governing hazardous waste facilities. After much delay, EPA finally issued interim status requirements outlining minimum national requirements. GAO was requested to determine: (1) the extent to which facilities with interim status meet the EPA requirements; (2) whether the requirements developed by EPA are sufficient to protect the public health and welfare; and (3) how effectively and thoroughly EPA is monitoring and enforcing these requirements. The review focused on activities performed by EPA and six selected states.

GAO found that: (1) not all facilities which store, treat, or dispose of hazardous waste were included by the interim status process or that facilities with interim status meet the regulations and requirements; (2) the regulations that were issued were largely administrative and nontechnical and were not intended to provide complete health and environmental protection; and (3) monitoring and enforcement of the regulations has been limited in that only a limited number of inspections have been performed by EPA and the states, the inspections resulted primarily in the issuance of compliance orders for administrative violations, and the number and amounts of fines levied have been small. EPA performed little follow-up to determine if all existing hazardous waste facilities, required by regulations, submitted applications. The interim status application process was not designed to determine compliance with the regulations and requirements, and the applications sought little information which could have been useful to EPA in determining problem areas and inspection needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA does not plan to take action; it believes that high priority attention has been given to enforcement efforts under the interim status program.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct that increased emphasis be placed on enforcement efforts including emphasis on technical violations at interim status facilities so that assurances can be provided that hazardous waste facilities meet at least minimum national requirements for hazardous waste management.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA does not plan to take action; it believes that adequate staffing and priority have been provided to the program.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct that a determination be made as to the additional staffing needs, if any, for the interim status program and that options be developed as to how such staff can be obtained.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA stated that application data were never intended to identify facilities warranting additional investigative effort.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct that additional review be made of the interim status application data provided by the facilities and, where necessary, clarifying information be obtained to identify facilities warranting additional investigative effort.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA does not intend to take action; it believes that adequate followup had been performed prior to the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct that additional follow-up be made to identify that all facilities subject to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste are included in the interim status control program.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA does not intend to take action; it believes that adequate staffing and priority have been provided to the inspection program.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should direct that the level of inspections needed for full implementation of the EPA enforcement role and the necessary staff assistance to carry out the enforcement role be determined.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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