A New Approach Is Needed for the Federal Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment Program

CED-82-37: Published: Feb 19, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to develop and implement the industrial pretreatment program.

GAO found that the: (1) overall scope and impact of the pretreatment program remains undefined; (2) program may result in costly, inequitable, and redundant treatment that may not address toxic pollution problems; and (3) program will be a further drain on scarce federal, state, and local pollution control resources. GAO believes it is highly unlikely that the program can be fully implemented within the currently established timeframe. Although EPA is conducting a regulatory impact analysis of the pretreatment program, the schedule for completing the analysis and selecting an option is very ambitious. Given the many uncertainties about toxic pollution problems, GAO is concerned about the ability of EPA to resolve these issues in the relatively short time established. EPA needs to pay close attention to the problems and unresolved issues associated with the present pretreatment program. If EPA acts too quickly in selecting a pretreatment alternative, GAO believes it may commit itself to a course of action that contains many of the current program's problems and that is equally unacceptable to those involved.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During congressional deliberations on the Clean Water Act, EPA provided extnsive information on possible pretreatment programs. However, a formal, complete legislative package, as GAO recommended, was not provided. What remains is for Congress to decide on legislative amendments.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should: (1) advise Congress that the deadlines established for implementing the pretreatment program cannot be met until significant problems and issues concerning toxic pollution are resolved; and (2) provide an estimated timeframe needed to resolve these matters.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During congressional deliberations on the Clean Water Act, EPA provided extensive information on possible pretreatment programs. However, a formal, complete legislative package, as GAO recommended, was not provided. What remains is for Congress to decide on legislative amendments.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should include in a legislative package to Congress information on the: (1) pretreatment options considered; (2) estimated effect of the various options on the environment, water quality, and public health; (3) resources needed to implement various options; and (4) the estimated timeframe for full program implementation under the various options.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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