Hazardous Waste:

Federal Agency Hazardous Waste Disposal at Kettleman Hills, California

RCED-86-50: Published: Dec 26, 1985. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether federal agencies disposed of hazardous wastes at a firm's facility in Kettleman Hills, California after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cited the facility for significant violations of environmental regulations.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA banned its own use of the Kettleman Hills facility for hazardous waste disposal because of the significant environmental violations discovered; (2) from November 1984 through May 1985, federal agencies disposed of about 8,000 tons of hazardous waste at Kettleman Hills; (3) agencies had no policies or standards for prohibiting the disposal of EPA Superfund cleanup wastes at facilities with significant environmental problems; and (4) EPA does not have the authority to prohibit federal agencies from using commercial facilities that are in violation of environmental regulations. GAO found that: (1) EPA inspections at Kettleman Hills in 1983 and 1984 disclosed that there was no groundwater monitoring system at the facility; (2) the facility had been modified without prior approval; (3) federal agencies disposed of hazardous wastes at the Kettleman facility during the period that the facility was experiencing compliance problems; (4) most of the federally generated waste disposed of, both before and after the Superfund ban, came from Department of Defense (DOD) sources; (5) although policies and procedures require that Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) facilities be used for any hazardous waste disposal, they do not prohibit the use of these facilities during times that the facilities are not in compliance with RCRA environmental regulations; and (6) a lack of agency policy contributed to the substantial quantities of federal wastes disposed at Kettleman Hills at a time when EPA considered the facility not to be in compliance with requirements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA complied with the recommendation and it will be closed out on the next followup cycle.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should expand the EPA off-site policy for the disposal of Superfund cleanup waste to also include EPA hazardous waste being disposed of under RCRA.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has written to all major federal agencies encouraging adoption of this recommendation and hosted a meeting of federal representatives on March 17, 1986, to discuss this recommendation. An accomplishment report will be considered when EPA acts on another recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should encourage other federal agencies to adopt the off-site policy for the disposal of RCRA-regulated hazardous waste in addition to encouraging them to adopt the policy for the disposal of cleanup waste.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA plans to take, or has taken, action on the other recommendations, making this recommendation unnecessary.

    Recommendation: If the Administrator determines that statutory authority is needed or desirable to ensure adoption and implementation of the policy throughout the federal sector or to ensure the successful enforcement of the policy, the Administrator, EPA, should develop and submit to Congress the appropriate legislative language to achieve these objectives.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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