Environment, Safety, and Health:

Environment and Workers Could Be Better Protected at Ohio Defense Plants

RCED-86-61: Published: Dec 13, 1985. Publicly Released: Dec 13, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) effectiveness in protecting its workers, the community, and the environment at three of its defense production facilities in Ohio.

GAO noted that: (1) in two previous reports, it recommended that DOE develop a system to independently verify environmental monitoring data reported by contractors; and (2) DOE did not adopt the recommendation because it believed the contractors' quality assurance programs provided an effective method for ensuring data reliability. GAO found that: (1) each Ohio contractor collects, evaluates, and reports its own radioactive air and water releases; (2) quality assurance programs help ensure that water and air samples are accurately analyzed, but do not verify that data collected are adequate; (3) each plant had environmental problems that resulted in groundwater, soil, or drinking water contamination; (4) two of the plants were not in compliance with hazardous waste laws; and (5) one of the plants was not in compliance with state permits because it had not completed two of four pollution control projects. GAO also found that: (1) the contractors did not always follow the DOE radiological monitoring guide, which recommended that they monitor on- and off-site wells to assess environmental impacts of plant operations; (2) DOE did not adopt the recommendation that it make radiological monitoring guides mandatory for all DOE facilities because it believed contractors would lose flexibility in designing their monitoring programs; (3) contractors received sizable fees even though environmental safety and health (ES&H) problems existed; and (4) DOE appraisal programs were not identifying major ES&H problems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The issuance of mandatory monitoring requirements in DOE 5400.1 and DOE 5400.5, the issuance of the Regulatory Guide, and the implementation of environmental monitoring plans by each DOE facility incorporating the requirements of DOE 5400.1, DOE 5400.5, and the Regulatory Guide closes out this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require that radiological monitoring guides be mandatory for all DOE facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE Order 5400.1 has been revised since this recommendation was made. The extant version of the order requires that all DOE sites have monitoring programs for radiological and non-radiological contaminants and that sample analyses be independently verified according to an approved data verification plan. In addition, all major DOE sites are now under compliance agreements monitored by EPA and the states.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should develop a coordinated DOE/state/contractor system to verify contractor-reported data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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