Interim Report on Establishment of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Adequacy of Superfund Staff Resources

HRD-83-81: Published: Aug 10, 1983. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO conducted a review of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsibilities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act which authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a Superfund Program to clean up toxic waste sites and HHS to establish a new Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to carry out the act's health-related activities.

GAO found that, although the agency was established in 1983, HHS is operating the program under essentially the same interagency arrangement, involving several Public Health Service (PHS) agencies, that has been in effect since 1981. This approach has reduced the priority of Superfund activities and resulted in program delays. Further, PHS has not yet developed procedures detailing how the Superfund responsibilities will be carried out. Although Congress required HHS to establish a separate agency to ensure some independence and priority for Superfund activities, the activities have been integrated into existing organizations and have been delayed because of competition with other agency responsibilities. They have also been hampered because of the level of staff resources allowed relative to the amount of funds appropriated by Congress. Because of the lack of staff, officials expect to eliminate virtually all long-term health studies, registries, and laboratory projects.

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