Air Pollution:

Environmental Protection Agency's Inspections of Stationary Sources

RCED-86-1BR: Published: Oct 24, 1985. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) inspection program for stationary air pollution sources, focusing on: (1) whether EPA was conducting inspections as required; and (2) whether the EPA inspections provide adequate assurance that the requirements of the Clean Air Act are being met. As part of its review, GAO contracted for a study of inspection adequacy with a firm that helped EPA develop its inspection guidelines.

GAO found that: (1) EPA guidelines for inspection frequency call for differing inspection intervals based on the type of pollutant emitted by each site; (2) EPA inspection guidelines define a minimally acceptable inspection as a visible emissions check combined with a review of site records and observations of site operating equipment; and (3) while the private study indicated that numerous additional violations might be detected if inspections included detailed engineering analyses, EPA does not believe that such analyses are necessary to determine compliance. GAO also found that EPA regional offices: (1) are responsible for inspecting sites which state or local agencies agree to inspect but do not; (2) did not inspect 82 percent of the sites which state and local agencies failed to inspect; and (3) failed to inspect 55 percent of the other sites for which they were responsible during the time period studied. In addition, GAO found that: (1) most of the regional offices cited inadequate staff resources as a reason for their failure to conduct required inspections; and (2) EPA is evaluating a system to prioritize the frequency and depth of inspections for sources with a high potential for noncompliance.

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