Environmental Protection:

Information on EPA's Underground Injection Control Program

RCED-95-21: Published: Dec 5, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Underground Injection Control Program, focusing on: (1) EPA efforts to ban underground hazardous waste injections; (2) whether EPA inspection and enforcement data are adequate to ensure proper program oversight; and (3) the status of prior recommendations to improve the program.

GAO found that: (1) EPA has made progress in implementing federal regulations banning underground injection of hazardous wastes; (2) between 1988 and 1993, the number of underground hazardous waste injections declined from 189 to 118; (3) although 103 of the 118 well owners were able to demonstrate that untreated hazardous wastes would not migrate from the injection zones, EPA allowed 15 owners to continue injecting untreated hazardous wastes because these wells could not treat the types of wastes being injected or EPA had not developed treatment standards for these wastes; (4) although key oversight data in the Underground Injection Control Program are not accurate, EPA does not believe these data errors compromise its oversight ability; (5) EPA plans to resolve most of the program data problems by December 1994 and determine whether these and other reporting data are necessary for adequate program oversight; (6) EPA has implemented or is in the process of implementing most of the prior recommendations; and (7) EPA has strengthened its oversight of the underground injection control program and required all well operators to search for and plug any improperly plugged wells in the immediate vicinity of their wells, as recommended.

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