Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation With Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities

RCED-83-168: Published: Jun 1, 1983. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO determined the correlation between the location of hazardous waste landfills and the racial and economic status of the surrounding communities in eight southeastern states. GAO also provided information on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site location standards and permitting procedures.

GAO found that blacks make up the majority of the population in three of the four communities where the region's four offsite hazardous waste landfills are located. At least 26 percent of the population in these communities has an income below the poverty level. The determination as to where a hazardous waste landfill will be located is currently a state responsibility. However, effective January 1983, federal regulations require that selected sites meet minimal location standards, and EPA has begun its review process to determine whether the sites meet these standards. Federal legislation requires public participation in the hazardous waste landfill permit process, except for the approval of the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's). Because of delays in issuing final regulations, three of the four landfills in the region have not yet undergone the final permit process where public participation is required. The fourth PCB landfill has been subjected to the process and granted a permit, even though it was not required by federal regulations. Finally, GAO found that the EPA class permit proposal for less complex waste management facilities would limit public participation at the local level. However, class permits would apply to storage tanks, not landfills.

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