Water Pollution:

Coordinated Strategy Needed to Address Radioactive and Toxic Wastes in the Massachusetts Bay

T-RCED-92-17: Published: Nov 4, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1991.

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GAO discussed the: (1) scope of past dumping activities in the Massachusetts Bay; and (2) Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plans to reassess this issue. GAO noted that: (1) although a 1984 EPA study concluded that radioactive waste dumping occurred primarily in one area of the bay and that those wastes presented no public health risk, environmental groups contended that EPA did not fully examine all possible waste dumping areas; (2) concerned environmental organizations allege that statements from local fishermen and the dumper of those wastes, and an independent 1991 survey suggest that EPA did not study all the areas where radioactive wastes may have been dumped; (3) the 1991 survey also indicated that the dumping of toxic wastes was more extensive than previously believed; (4) although EPA stands by its 1984 study, it is planning to conduct another search for radioactive waste containers after reexamining permits and other documents and interviewing local fishermen and other knowledgable individuals; (5) despite EPA plans to conduct another study, local environmental groups have raised concerns regarding the adequacy of those plans for determining a search area, the adequacy of its research vessel and equipment, and the search's timing and duration; and (6) although EPA has taken steps to address many of those issues, many issues still remain. GAO believes that EPA should form a research team composed of representatives from agencies with experience in navigational search techniques and issuing dumping permits to help design its survey and ensure the credibility of its future work.

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