Groundwater Conditions at Many Hazardous Waste Disposal Facilities Remain Uncertain

T-RCED-89-30: Published: Apr 27, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) groundwater monitoring activities. GAO found weaknesses in the EPA program, including EPA failure to: (1) ensure that facilities met its established groundwater monitoring goals; (2) establish criteria for the type, amount, and quality of data needed for permit and groundwater program decisions; (3) establish sufficient technical standards and requirements for facility owners and operators to use in monitoring groundwater; and (4) develop or require facility owners and operators to implement quality control and assurance mechanisms to ensure data accuracy and appropriateness. GAO also found that: (1) 11 of the 50 facilities it reviewed met EPA and state groundwater monitoring goals, and the remaining 39 had not developed sufficient information to demonstrate their compliance with EPA requirements; (2) 43 facilities had not received their permits by 1987, and EPA deferred requiring corrective designs until after permit issuance; and (3) EPA used questionable data to make its permit decisions, and did not evaluate the quality of operator-provided data. GAO also found that EPA took corrective action to improve groundwater data collection, including requiring owners and operators to: (1) take better representative samples; (2) analyze all samples down to specific detection levels; and (3) meet established quality control standards.

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