Efforts To Clean Up DOD-Owned Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites

NSIAD-85-41: Published: Apr 12, 1985. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the status of the Department of Defense's (DOD) Installation Restoration Program (IRP), which is a program to comply with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act's requirements for cleanup of DOD hazardous waste sites.

DOD has identified 473 military bases that require assessments to identify potentially hazardous waste sites, 204 bases where confirmation is needed that contaminants are affecting the environment; and 72 bases where corrective action is needed. Through fiscal year 1983, IRP expenditures were about $202 million. DOD has estimated that total program costs will be between $5 and $10 billion. However, the estimate is tentative because the number of sites and scope of the required cleanup effort is not yet known. Many states have begun to set informal, nonregulatory standards for hazardous pollutants in ground water and, while DOD guidance does not address the extent to which bases are required to meet the states' informal regulatory standards, DOD bases are attempting to comply with these informal standards. The lack of formal federal and state groundwater standards for allowable contaminants and the variance of the currently used informal standards from state to state has increased the need for close coordination of IRP activities with regulatory agencies; however, the level of coordination prescribed is not sufficient to prevent coordination problems or to facilitate efficient implementation of IRP. GAO found that: (1) six bases could have minimized problems with earlier regulatory agency involvement; and (2) three bases had been helped by regulatory involvement to develop IRP plans. The services have used contracts to accomplish IRP studies, and GAO found that the Air Force has encountered problems with contract administration and monitoring.

Recommendation 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 Secretary of Defense should revise the IRP policy on coordination with regulatory agencies. The revised policy should provide for increased and earlier involvement of EPA and state regulatory agencies in all IRP phases and should be uniform for all services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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