Wyoming Wastewater Treatment Facility Proves Unsuccessful

CED-81-94: Published: Jun 15, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 1981.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO investigated the circumstances surrounding the failure of the wastewater treatment facility in Thayne, Wyoming.

The $1.15 million facility is now being used by 106 sewage hookups in Thayne while the Star Valley Cheese Corporation (SVCC), for which the facility was principally designed, discharges its wastes directly into the local waterway. Throughout its history, the facility has been beset by problems. The spray irrigation system selected for the project was high-risk because it tended to ice up in the harsh winters and needed a high level of operation and maintenance. SVCC continually overloaded the facility's capacity to treat wastes. The project design was deficient in that both the storage pond and the land on which the treated wastewater was sprayed were too small. The construction company did a poor job: liners of the storage pond were improperly installed and the land receiving the sprayed water was improperly prepared. Operation and maintenance activities were neglected, and most of the new construction items provided for in a grant amendment were never installed. The system did not function properly to alleviate the severe odor problems caused by the SVCC high discharge levels. Because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not adequately monitor the project: (1) more than $11,000 in industrial cost recovery payments made by SVCC were not collected from Thayne; (2) Thayne used 34 percent of the modification and repair funds for architectural and engineering services, an amount far in excess of the grant agreement; and (3) EPA may have overpaid the construction, repair, and modification costs by about $95,000.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should require the Region VIII Regional Administrator to collect from Thayne the funds due the federal government for industrial cost recovery payments.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The EPA Inspector General informed the Mayor of Thayne, WY, that $51,864 was owed the federal government for costs disallowed under the EPA construction grants program. This sum was collected by offsetting the amount against a grant from the Economic Development Administration not yet paid to Thayne.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should require the EPA Inspector General to perform a comprehensive and detailed audit of all costs associated with the Thayne project. If ineligible or unsupported costs are found, EPA should recover these amounts.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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