Hazardous Waste:

Issues Pertaining to an Incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio

RCED-94-101: Published: Sep 9, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) issues concerning the operational control and ownership of a hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio; (2) whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio have complied with regulations for approving and modifying incinerator permits; and (3) EPA ability to ensure that human health and the environment are protected during the operation of the incinerator.

GAO found that: (1) several of the companies that made up the original partnership have changed, as well as the operational responsibility for the facility; (2) although the corporate partners have changed several times and all of the partners are now owned by the same corporation, the company's ownership has not changed; (3) EPA has generally followed regulatory requirements in permitting the incinerator; (4) EPA has not required the company to provide an engineering analysis to show that its proposed flood protection devices would be able to withstand a 100-year flood; (5) EPA has not conducted an alternative site analysis as required by a federal executive order on floodplain development; (6) EPA and the public could benefit from increased public participation in the permitting process; (7) EPA has established performance standards that the incinerator must meet when burning hazardous wastes and has required the facility to conduct a test to determine whether the incinerator could meet those standards before beginning full-scale operations; and (8) because of community concerns, EPA has gone beyond program requirements and is conducting a two-phase health risk assessment.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency does not consider this to be a priority for the RCRA hazardous waste program and therefore does not plan to amend the RCRA regulations.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should amend the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations to: (1) incorporate the alternative site analysis requirement of Executive Order 11988; and (2) require that the 500-year floodplain be used instead of the 100-year floodplain.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 1994, EPA proposed the RCRA Expanded Public Participation and Revisions to Combustion Permitting Procedure rule. Although the draft final rule requires additional opportunities for public participation in the permitting process, it does not include public participation requirements for specific situations discussed in the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should request that the EPA staff who are currently developing proposals as part of the agency's draft combustion strategy establish guidance on conditions or circumstances for which opportunities for public participation should be provided beyond the present regulatory requirements, including situations in which the permittee does not follow the RCRA permit modification requirements and when significant updated information is required to be submitted as a condition of the permit after the permit is issued.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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