Hazardous Waste:

Uncertainties of Existing Data

PEMD-87-11BR: Published: Feb 18, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO addressed the issue of whether future treatment, storage, and disposal capacities will be quantitatively adequate to manage the volume of hazardous wastes being generated.

GAO found that, after reviewing approximately 90 studies and documents, there were significant data gaps, methodological problems, and other issues that precluded it from: (1) relying upon available information to provide estimates of the total volume of hazardous waste; and (2) determining whether future treatment, storage, and disposal capacity will adequately meet the volume of hazardous waste generated. GAO concluded that a variety of uncertainties could severely constrain the planning and management of future hazardous waste production, including: (1) the amount of hazardous waste that Superfund sites will produce; (2) the effect of the proposed law on the land disposal of some wastes; and (3) legislative requirements for groundwater monitoring and financial responsibility. GAO believes that Congress should address certain methodological issues, including the definition of hazardous waste, the scope of waste estimates, and the design of studies, to ensure that it will have the information base it needs to plan for hazardous waste management.

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