Environmental Cleanup:

Better Data Needed for Radioactively Contaminated Defense Sites

NSIAD-94-168: Published: Aug 24, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the accuracy and adequacy of Department of Defense (DOD) data on military sites contaminated with low-level radioactive waste, focusing on data sharing among DOD and other agencies.

GAO found that: (1) DOD identification of radiologically contaminated sites depends on data that are often outdated, inaccurate, and incomplete; (2) data on contaminated sites are incorrect because some sites have been double-counted while others have not been identified; (3) some Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) sites and former DOD sites have not been included in the data; (4) the DOD database includes general categories of contaminants at sites, such as low-level radiation, but it cannot identify specific contaminants or quantities; and (5) more specific information would better help identify the types of contamination that exist, the types of required cleanup, and potential risks associated with continued contamination and cleanup efforts.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 1995, OSD requested that the military services and agencies review their databases to ensure that they: (1) contain accurate data and to correct any discrepancies; and (2) capture all the data necessary for prudent low-level radioactive waste site management. Regarding quarterly updates, OSD changed its requirement for updating from four times a year to once a year. When current information is required by OSD, the services provide updates.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should take action to improve DOD databases to ensure that they have sufficient low-level radioactive waste data for managing the contaminated sites' restoration. Specifically, the Secretary should require that DLA and the military services correct current data errors and ensure that data are reported to the Office of the Secretary of Defense at least four times a year.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agrees that information concerning specific contaminants and contaminant quantities should be maintained, if known, but believes that such information should be maintained at the service level. DOD stated the services provide OSD with information on specific contaminants when it is required. Beginning in 1997, however, DOD included specific information on contamination and on pathways by which contaminants could reach receptors.

    Recommendation: Because data on specific contaminants are readily available and potentially useful for management decisions, the Secretary of Defense should modify DOD reporting requirements to include such information, as well as data available on estimated quantities of contaminants.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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