Information on a Hazardous Waste Facility Containing Chromium Lead Sludge

CED-82-13: Published: Nov 9, 1981. Publicly Released: Nov 24, 1981.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO investigated a hazardous waste facility at which chromium lead sludge was being deposited in a wetland area as part of a hazardous waste disposal operation.

The facility, which has been landfilling chromium lead sludge for 11 years, is located in a marshy area with an underground clay layer. This layer provides for the lateral flow of water or leachate from the facility to an adjoining lake connected to Lake Michigan. The chromium lead sludge disposed of at the facility is brought there from a steel plant and is comprised of residues from a steel finishing process. A 1981 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection revealed that the facility was in compliance with only 4 of the 48 interim status standards. Compliance could not be determined for the 44 remaining standards because records or plans were not available or could not be provided. The facility does not have a permit as required by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and has been referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution. At the time the facility applied for interim status, it disclosed on the application that chromium lead sludge was being disposed of at the facility. Prior to the GAO inspection, the application was revised to describe the residues being disposed of as those of a process using lime rather than lead. A local disposal permit was granted to the facility for land disposal of inert residues from pollution devices. However, the permit did not allow for the disposal of liquid or toxic and hazardous materials. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the facility has interim status, and EPA considers it to be legally operating.

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