Hazardous Waste Management Programs Will Not Be Effective:

Greater Efforts Are Needed

CED-79-14: Published: Jan 23, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 23, 1979.

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The United States has numerous hazardous waste sources scattered throughout the Nation, producing 56 million tons annually. These include industrial wastes, agricultural chemical residues, and chemical or pathological wastes from hospitals and laboratories. They occur as solids, liquids, powders, and sludges, and represent a prodigious disposal problem. GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) hazardous waste management plans and programs and the necessary resources to support them. GAO also visited 10 state environmental protection organizations and met with representatives of industrial associations, trucking companies, and waste management firms.

Generally, the states lack the staff and funds to satisfy hazardous waste requirements for health and environmental safeguards. Most states recognize the need to control waste, but lack the requisite controls, do not know the quantities produced in their jurisdictions, and are ignorant of present means of disposition. In fact, none of the states surveyed had fully identified its hazardous waste generators or believed it had an adequate enforcement program. EPA has been unable to obtain the funding authorized for implementing disposal programs, so the assistance promised to the states has not been provided. Many states will not accept the responsibility for fulfilling their obligations without federal financial and technical assistance; in such cases, EPA is required to step in and operate the programs directly. Currently, there is no long-term funding source available for hazardous waste disposal at any level of government, but fee systems are a possible alternative. EPA regional officials lack the staff to authorize, review, monitor, and provide technical assistance to state programs. Most EPA regions cannot help states draw up regulations, orient industry and the public concerning requirements, or review disposal sites for environmental soundness.

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