Hazardous Waste:

Federal Civil Agencies Slow to Comply With Regulatory Requirements

RCED-86-76: Published: May 6, 1986. Publicly Released: May 6, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reported on 17 federal civilian agencies' implementation of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provisions, specifically whether: (1) agencies are identifying and reporting their hazardous waste handlers to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states; (2) EPA and the states are inspecting federal facilities to ensure that handlers are complying with RCRA requirements; (3) handlers are complying with RCRA regulations; and (4) enforcement actions are compelling agencies to correct problems.

GAO found that: (1) the agencies identified 247 waste handlers and were confident that they had identified the most significant waste handlers and reported them to EPA or the states; (2) several agencies estimated that numerous facilities need evaluation; (3) agencies had inspected all of the major treatment, storage, and disposal handlers at least once; (4) many of the handlers had violated RCRA requirements; (5) over half of the facilities cited for violations were not in compliance with RCRA requirements 6 months to 3 years later due to limited agency knowledge of the requirements and lack of agency emphasis on RCRA; (6) in the past year, agencies have increased their emphasis on RCRA programs; and (7) EPA plans to expand its inspection coverage of hazardous waste handlers, provide federal agencies with more information on RCRA requirements, work closer with agencies on the program, and revise its compliance strategy to incorporate specific time frames for issuing compliance orders.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The March 24, 1988 EPA policy memorandum to its regions sets forth an elevation process with recommended time frames for settling disputes between EPA and a federal agency to ensure that compliance agreements are settled in a timely manner.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should ensure that the federal agency environmental compliance strategy includes specific time frames for elevating unresolved problems to EPA headquarters, and is completed on schedule.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA has taken steps to collect additional information on federal agency hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. It has not, however, evaluated the effectiveness of federal agency efforts to identify such facilities or other types of hazardous waste handlers, such as hazardous waste generators.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should increase monitoring of handler identification programs. Such monitoring should include, but not be limited to, periodic reviews or assessments of agency progress in identifying handlers. Where deficiencies are found, the Administrator should work with agency heads to implement needed improvements.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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