Backlog of Unevaluated Federal Facilities Slows Cleanup Efforts

RCED-93-119: Published: Jul 20, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) and other federal agencies' progress in assessing and evaluating federal facilities with potential hazardous waste contamination.

GAO found that: (1) as of December 1992, EPA had evaluated 500 of the 823 potentially contaminated facilities on the docket; (2) the backlog of unevaluated federal facilities could result in an increased risk to public health and the environment or expensive rework if agencies do their own cleanup and are later required by EPA to perform additional cleanup; (3) there is no way to estimate how many federal facilities EPA will include on the National Priorities List (NPL); (4) EPA does not know whether unevaluated facilities are more or less contaminated than those already evaluated; (5) EPA concluded in 1987 that it could not meet the legislative deadlines because of resource limitations; and (6) some federal agencies do not view hazardous waste cleanup programs as a high priority and sometimes provide EPA with late or incomplete assessments.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The report is too recent to measure congressional reaction. This recommendation was not implemented by the Superfund reauthorization bill.

    Matter: As part of the upcoming Superfund reauthorization process, Congress may wish to require EPA and federal agencies to report on the status of their docketed facilities in their annual Superfund report to Congress.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: EPA does not plan to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To expedite action on federal facilities and establish accountability for progress on cleanup, the Administrator, EPA, should, in consultation with other federal agencies, develop a Superfund plan to address the backlog of unevaluated federal facilities remaining on the docket. This plan should specify: (1) the steps EPA will take to streamline the assessment and evaluation process; (2) a schedule for completing federal facility assessments and adding to NPL those facilities that pose the greatest harm; and (3) the level of priority and resources EPA plans to devote to this effort. This plan should be completed in time to be considered by Congress during the upcoming Superfund reauthorization.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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