Status of Civilian Federal Agencies' Efforts To Address Hazardous Waste Problems on Their Lands

RCED-84-188: Published: Sep 28, 1984. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1984.

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Hugh J. Wessinger
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined: (1) what actions have been taken by federal civilian agencies to comply with provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which require them to identify federal sites which potentially contain hazardous wastes; and (2) the status of ongoing and planned agency actions to assess and correct hazardous waste problems at federal sites.

GAO identified 16 federal agencies involved in hazardous waste activities. The agencies had identified 340 locations with potential hazardous waste problems. Some locations were identified in response to a CERCLA reporting requirement, although identification of sites was hampered because: (1) some agencies were unaware of the reporting requirement; (2) guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) left agencies with broad discretion in meeting the requirement; and (3) there was no requirement for EPA to evaluate the adequacy of agency reporting actions. GAO found that about 30 percent of the 340 identified locations had not been assessed, but that for the remainder, some action had been taken. In 73 cases, EPA or the responsible agency determined that no further action was warranted. GAO also found that seven federal agencies have initiatives underway to identify hazardous waste sites. In addition, GAO found that an EPA inventory of potential hazardous waste sites is incomplete and contains errors, which could adversely affect a new EPA strategy for ensuring that agencies comply with CERCLA requirements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Section 120(c) of P.L. 99-499 required EPA to establish a federal facilities hazardous waste database to be updated every 6 months to show current status of hazardous waste sites. EPA published the docket on February 12, 1988. The CERCLIS database was updated in order to arrive at docket.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should instruct EPA regional offices on the importance and need for complete and accurate information on potential hazardous waste site locations on federal lands. The instructions should also require regional offices to update and correct the ERRIS database to show which locations are on federal lands and clearly identify within the database those locations on federal lands that have been shown to lack the potential for uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As part of fulfilling a mandate to establish a federal facilities docket under SARA, P.L. 99-499, EPA provided guidance to federal agencies on how to assess hazardous waste sites and report the status of sites to the EPA regional office to include in its repository.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should require EPA regional offices to update and correct the ERRIS database to show the current status of site assessment, evaluation, and corrective actions that have been taken at federal agency locations.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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