Multibillion Dollar Construction Grant Program:

Are Controls Over Federal Funds Adequate?

CED-77-113: Published: Sep 12, 1977. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1977.

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Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing billions of dollars in grants each year to build publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities, Congress does not have assurance that these are properly planned, designed, and constructed. Grantees, usually municipalities contributing from 5 percent to 25 percent of project funding, are expected to provide such assurance. However, they generally rely on consulting engineers to develop accurate, complete, and cost effective designs. They rely also on the engineer and construction contractor to assure that construction complies with detailed plans and specifications.

Because EPA lacks criteria on federal funding of aesthetic features in waste treatment plants, plants have been constructed with a wide variety of architectural features ranging from relatively austere buildings to plants with elaborate and costly aesthetic features. Of 24 operational waste treatment plants reviewed, five could not meet design criteria because of design deficiencies. Seventeen of the 48 projects reviewed experienced delays, increased costs, and inferior workmanship as a result of ineffective controls during the construction phase. If properly enforced, recently promulgated EPA regulations that establish criteria for determining whether a contractor is responsible should help to assure selection of qualified contractors.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should establish criteria restricting Federal grant participation in the cost of ornamental or aesthetic features of waste treatment projects. The Administrator should: amend EPA regulations to require that as a grant condition the grantee shall be subject to EPA approval of the selected engineer; disapprove Federal funding for future construction projects intended to correct problems resulting from design deficiencies; provide technical assistance to grantees to identify the reasons waste treatment facilities do not meet design criteria; encourage grantees to hold the responsible party accountable for damages; develop a clear definition of the resident engineer's duties and responsibilities; and insure that consulting engineers are held responsible for the poor performance of their resident engineers.

    Agency Affected:


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