Review of a Land and Water Conservation Fund Commitment for a Public Park on Neville Island, Pennsylvania

CED-80-85: Published: Mar 18, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1980.

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GAO was requested to examine the commitment of funds for a public park on Neville Island, Pennsylvania. Specifically, it was asked to determine if a basis existed for the allegations that the firm which donated the land to the county or county officials knew that toxic chemicals were buried on the proposed park site and whether the firm or the county misrepresented the condition of the site when application was made to secure Federal funding. GAO was also asked to inquire into who was responsible for the cleanup costs required to make the park site usable.

There was no evidence at the Federal or State level that the county misrepresented the park-site conditions when it applied for the Federal funds. Records supported the statement by Federal and State officials that they were not aware of any toxic chemical wastes buried at the site until more than 2 years after application was made for Federal funding. A further review of the county records and files pertaining to the acceptance of land and subsequent development of the park indicated that many parties were irresponsible, lax, misguided, or unprofessional in attempting to deal with the problem of toxicity at the park site. A county official preferred not to give an opinion as to whether the firm misrepresented the conditions of the land when it was donated to the county. Currently, State officials believe that either the firm or the county would be liable for any costs associated with cleaning up the park site. As of February 1980, Federal funds had not been disbursed. State officials stated that funds would not be disbursed until the health hazard was resolved and the Department of the Interior granted approval for payment. Interior officials stated that they would decide what to do about the $900,000 Federal commitment after considering: (1) the remedial measures recommended by the engineering firm which investigated the on-site toxic chemical problem; and (2) the specific actions taken by Pennsylvania and the county.

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