Hazardous Waste Exports:

Data Quality and Collection Problems Weaken EPA Enforcement Activities

PEMD-93-24: Published: Jul 6, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 6, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) hazardous waste export data to determine whether: (1) the effectiveness of the EPA hazardous waste export regulatory program is directly dependent upon the quality of the data; and (2) data problems jeopardize the EPA program or foreign importers' decisions to import U.S. hazardous wastes.

GAO found that: (1) a study of exporters' documentation and manifests revealed a number of data quality and collection problems related to exporters' activities or the design of the EPA program; (2) foreign importers and receiving facilities did not rely on EPA-provided data to make decisions on importing U.S. hazardous wastes; (3) officials at receiving facilities used their own analyses of the wastes proposed for shipment to determine whether they were capable of treating and disposing of the wastes; (4) importing countries relied primarily on the information provided by receiving facilities and their own import monitoring systems; (5) EPA did not detect 10 export regulation violations directly related to data and program problems; and (6) EPA needs to obtain hazardous waste export data that are reliable, valid, and complete to determine the potential risks of exporting U.S. hazardous waste.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has completed its review and taken steps to address problems where appropriate.

    Recommendation: For the six systemic program problems, the Administrator, EPA, should initiate efforts as soon as possible to render regulations specific enough for valid, reliable, and complete data to be obtained.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA does not intend to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: For the exporter-related problems, the Administrator, EPA, should conduct an internal evaluation to determine whether the problems are generalized among the overall exporter population. The Administrator should then examine what further monitoring or enforcement measures may be necessary; for example, conducting regular comparisons of exporters' and receiving facilities' hazardous waste quantity estimates.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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