Hazardous Waste:

Status of Cleanup at the Former Hamilton Air Force Base, California

NSIAD-86-23BR: Published: Dec 6, 1985. Publicly Released: Jan 6, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's program for identifying and cleaning up hazardous waste on its formerly owned properties and evaluated the quality of Army and Air Force cleanup efforts at a former Air Force base.

GAO found that toxic and hazardous waste cleanup efforts have been expedited since mid-April 1985, when the Army's and Air Force's roles and responsibilities for the cleanup were defined. The Army has given a high priority to the cleanup efforts it is carrying out on the excess land. Within 3 months after the cleanup work began, the toxic chemicals, debris, and two transformers leaking polychlorinated biphenyls were removed to a staging area on Army land. GAO found that, although the waste from the former radioactive waste disposal repository is located outside the excess area on the Army-retained property, the authorities do not know its exact location and contents. GAO found that the Army: (1) overlooked early warning signs of contamination; (2) identified toxic and hazardous waste problems prior to auction of the excess land but did not formally request the General Services Administration to delay the sale; (3) did not respond to all indications of contamination with cleanups; and (4) did not consider that such signals might indicate additional toxic and hazardous problems. GAO also found that, since the Air Force has yet to provide records on the condition of the land or its past uses, the current cleanup effort must proceed without information on the Air Force's past uses of toxic and hazardous materials, known or suspected areas of contamination, or decontamination efforts.

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