Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Health hazards"

    19 publications with a total of 42 open recommendations including 6 priority recommendations
    Director: Lepore, Brian J
    Phone: (202) 512-4523

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, in consultation with the Secretaries of the military departments, should identify and implement any necessary changes to DOD's environmental compliance policy to clarify DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should identify and implement actions to increase understanding at Army installations and commands about DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. These actions may include improved communication to or additional training for personnel. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should identify and implement actions to increase understanding at Navy installations and commands about DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. These actions may include improved communication to or additional training for personnel. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should identify and implement actions to increase understanding at Air Force installations and commands about DOD's reporting requirements for violations of health-based drinking water regulations. These actions may include improved communication to or additional training for personnel. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment, in consultation with the Secretaries of the military departments, should (a) review reported compliance data to identify the reasons for any differences in the number of violations of health-based drinking water regulations between DOD's two types of public water systems and (b) identify and implement any actions needed to address the causes of any differences in the number of violations between DOD's two types of public water systems. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should lead the development of a mechanism for interagency collaboration to determine roles and responsibilities for addressing priorities related to research on the health effects of low-dose radiation.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Cary Russell
    Phone: (202) 512-5431

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better position combatant commanders to implement the requirements of DOD Instruction 4715.19 if burn pits become necessary and to assist in planning for waste disposal in future military operations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the combatant commanders of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Pacific Command, and U.S. Southern Command to establish implementation policies and procedures for waste management. Such policies and procedures should include, as applicable, specific organizations within each combatant command with responsibility for ensuring compliance with relevant policies and procedures, including burn pit notification, and, when appropriate, monitoring and reporting on the use of burn pits.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better understand the long-term health effects of exposure to the disposal of covered waste in burn pits, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to, in coordination with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, specifically examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health-related issues. As part of that examination, consider the results of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's report on the Department of Veteran Affairs registry and the methodology outlined in the 2011 Institute of Medicine study that suggests the need to evaluate the health status of service members from their time of deployment over many years to determine their incidence of chronic disease, with particular attention to the collection of data at the individual level, including the means by which that data is obtained.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better understand the long-term health effects of exposure to the disposal of covered waste in burn pits, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to take steps to ensure United States Central Command and other geographic combatant commands, as appropriate, establish processes to consistently monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Debra A. Draper
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To eliminate the fragmentation and duplication in the storage of unclassified OEHS data, the Secretary of Defense should determine which IT system--DOEHRS or MESL--should be used to store specific types of unclassified OEHS data, clarify the department's policy accordingly, and require all other departmental and military-service-specific policies to be likewise amended and implemented to ensure consistency.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, officials told us that draft versions of the revised DoDI 6490.03, Deployment Health, and the new Defense Health Agency Procedural Instruction (DHA PI) 6490.03, Deployment Health, are still under review with DOD components. These revised and updated documents will address the recommendation on OEHS data storage. Additionally, DoDI 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), and Military Service and Combatant Command policy and guidance documents are still being revised to be consistent with DoDI 6490.03 and DHA PI 6490.03 after they are published. These revisions will ensure the consistency among policies. As of November 2016, the entire process is expected to be complete within 10 to 14 months.
    Recommendation: To ensure the reliability of OEHS data, the Secretary of Defense should establish clear policies and procedures for performing quality assurance reviews of the OEHS data collected during deployment, to include verifying the completeness and the reasonableness of these data, and require that all other related military-service-specific policies be amended and implemented to ensure consistency.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, officials told us that draft versions of the revised DoDI 6490.03, Deployment Health, and the new Defense Health Agency Procedural Instruction (DHA PI) 6490.03, Deployment Health, are in review among the DOD Components. Further, DoDI 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH) and Military Service and Combatant Command policy and guidance documents will be revised to be consistent with DoDI 6490.03 and DHA PI 6490.03 after they are published. In addition, DOD is exploring improvement to the data quality assurance functionality within the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System Industrial Hygiene (DOEHRS-IH). A new DOEHRS-IH version (2.0.18.1) was released on August 19, 2016 that contained several system enhancements and defect corrections to improve overall data quality in the system. DOD anticipates additional releases in FY 2017 that will further improve DOEHRS-IH data quality. The revised policies and the new DOEHRS-IH functionality will appropriately address the recommendation on quality assurance of OEHS data.
    Recommendation: To ensure that potential occupational and environmental health risks are mitigated for servicemembers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense should require CENTCOM to revise its policy to ensure that base commanders' decisions on whether to implement risk mitigation recommendations identified in OEHSAs are adequately documented and consistently monitored by the appropriate command.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, officials told us that the current DoDI 6055.01, DoD Safety and Occupational Health Program, requires DoD components to establish procedures that document, archive, and reevaluate risk management decisions on a recurring basis. Draft versions of the revised DoDI 6490.03, Deployment Health, and the new Defense Health Agency Procedural Instruction (DHA PI) 6490.03, Deployment Health, include language that is consistent with DoDI 6055.01. Additionally, U.S. Central Command Regulation 40-2 (CCR 40-2), which was updated as of March 8, 2016, references the requirement to establish procedures to assure risk management decisions are documented, archived, and reevaluated on a recurring basis. The DOD is also exploring a risk management decision and monitoring functionality in DOEHRS-IH. It has identified and approved the necessary system change requests required to improve risk management decisions and monitoring functionality. These functionalities are primarily focused around the Occupational & Environmental Health Site Assessment (OEHSA) and associated exposure pathways, sampling plans, and assessments. Subject to the availability of FY 2017 funding, DOD will implement the system change requests, and achieve the required enhancements to DOEHRS-IH. These policies once published and the new DOEHRS-IH functionality will appropriately address the recommendation on documenting and monitoring risk management decisions.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that USDA has the information needed to better identify potentially contaminated sites--particularly abandoned mines--on properties it manages and, thereby, help minimize possible risks to human health and the environment, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the heads of the department's land management agencies to develop plans and procedures for completing their inventories of potentially contaminated sites.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help resolve disagreements between EPA and USDA and Interior regarding which remaining docket sites require preliminary assessments, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse to review available information on USDA and Interior sites where EPA's Superfund Enterprise Management System indicates that a preliminary assessment has not occurred to determine the accuracy of this information, and update the information, as needed.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, EPA Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office (FFRRO) generated a spreadsheet with information from EPA's Superfund Enterprise Management System showing the status of USDA and Interior sites on the docket. In January 2016 FFRRO sent letters to USDA and Interior which included information from the spreadsheet showing the status of each department's sites and requested that the departments work with EPA to determine the accuracy of the data. In addition, the departments were to--for those sites where EPA believed that a preliminary assessment was needed--provide a schedule for completion of the sites. In a June 2016 letter to EPA, USDA responded that with help from EPA regions they were able to substantially reconcile the list, complete preliminary assessments or their equivalent, and provide a status to EPA on its 251 sites. In an October 2016 letter to EPA, Interior responded that 79 sites have one or more areas of uncertainty regarding their status within the Federal Facilities Docket system. Interior stated that it had developed a work plan for obtaining additional information on the sites, which is scheduled for completion in March 2018. We will continue to monitor EPA's and Interior's progress to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help resolve disagreements between EPA and USDA and Interior regarding which remaining docket sites require preliminary assessments, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse to work with the relevant USDA and Interior offices to obtain any additional information needed to assist EPA in determining the accuracy of the agency's data on the status of preliminary assessments for these sites.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to EPA officials and documents, in response to this recommendation, EPA's Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office (FFRRO) has been meeting quarterly with USDA and Interior to discuss, among other issues, any additional information needed to assist EPA in determining the accuracy of the agency's data on the status of preliminary assessments for these sites. According to a June 2016 letter USDA sent to EPA, preliminary assessments or their equivalent have been completed for its 251 sites. Interior informed EPA in an October 2016 letter that it has developed a plan--scheduled for completion in March 2018--for obtaining additional information on the sites. After the updated list of sites is developed, Interior plans to work with EPA to determine the final steps necessary to complete a preliminary assessment for each site. We will continue to monitor EPA's and Interior's progress to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help resolve disagreements between EPA and USDA and Interior regarding which remaining docket sites require preliminary assessments, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse to, after completing this review, inform USDA and Interior whether the requirement to conduct a preliminary assessment at the identified sites has been met or if additional work is needed to meet this requirement

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to EPA officials and documents, in response to this recommendation, EPA's Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse Office (FFRRO) has been meeting quarterly with USDA and Interior to discuss, among other issues, whether the requirement to conduct a preliminary assessment at the identified sites has been met or if additional work is needed to meet this requirement. According to a June 2016 letter USDA sent to EPA, preliminary assessments or their equivalent have been completed for its 251 sites. Interior informed EPA in an October 2016 letter that it has developed a plan--scheduled for completion in March 2018--for obtaining additional information on the sites. After the updated list of sites is developed, Interior plans to work with EPA to determine the final steps necessary to complete a preliminary assessment for each site. We will continue to monitor EPA's and Interior's progress to address this recommendation.
    Director: Alicia Puente Cackley
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness, Congress should consider transferring the oversight of the markings of toy and imitation firearms in 15 U.S.C. 5001 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (within the Department of Commerce) to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: This matter is an action identified in GAO's annual Duplication and Cost Savings reports. There has been no legislative action identified. The Gun Look-Alike Case Act, H.R. 3224, which was introduced on July 27, 2015, in the 114th Congress, would transfer the authority to regulate the markings of toy, look-alike, and imitation firearms in section 5001 of title 15 of the U.S. Code from NIST to CPSC, as GAO suggested in November 2014. This bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade of the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the United States House of Representatives, and did not pass out of committee. As of March 1, 2017, the bill has not been reintroduced in the 115th Congress.
    Recommendation: To improve existing coordination of oversight for consumer product safety, Congress should consider establishing a formal comprehensive oversight mechanism for consumer product safety agencies to address crosscutting issues as well as inefficiencies related to fragmentation and overlap such as communication and coordination challenges and jurisdictional questions between agencies. Different types of formal mechanisms could include, for example, creating a memorandum of understanding to formalize relationships and agreements or establishing a task force or interagency work group. As a starting point, Congress may wish to obtain agency input on options for establishing more formal coordination.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: This matter is an action identified in GAO's annual Duplication and Cost Savings reports. There has been no legislative action identified. No legislation was introduced as of March 1, 2017, that would establish a collaborative mechanism to facilitate communication across the relevant agencies and to help enable them to collectively address crosscutting issues, as GAO suggested in November 2014. Some of the agencies with direct regulatory oversight responsibilities for consumer product safety reported that they continue to collaborate to address specific consumer product safety topics. However, without a formal comprehensive oversight mechanism, the agencies risk missing opportunities to better leverage resources and address challenges, including those related to fragmentation and overlap.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's oversight of the class II program is effective at protecting drinking water sources from the underground injection of large amounts of wastewater that will be produced with increasing domestic oil and gas production, and to support nationwide reporting goals until the national UIC database is complete, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should (1) improve the 7520 data for reporting purposes, as well as to help with quality assurance for the national UIC database, by developing and implementing a protocol for states and regions to enter data consistently and for regions to check 7520 data for consistency and completeness to ensure that data collected from state and EPA-managed class II programs are complete and comparable for purposes of reporting at a national level, and (2) in the interim, develop a method to use the 7520 database to report UIC data, including data on class II wells, until the national UIC database is fully populated with state data.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA said that its 7520 database is current as of 2014 and the quality assurance process has been completed. It is developing a method to use the database to report aggregated national data on the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's oversight of the class II program is effective at protecting drinking water sources from the underground injection of large amounts of wastewater that will be produced with increasing domestic oil and gas production, and to ensure that EPA maintains enforcement authority of state program requirements, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should (1) conduct a rulemaking to incorporate state program requirements, and changes to state program requirements, into federal regulations, and (2) at the same time, evaluate and consider alternative processes to more efficiently incorporate future changes to state program requirements into federal regulations without a rulemaking.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: EPA agrees with GAO's analysis that state program requirements and changes should be approved and codified in federal regulations. However, EPA does not agree with GAO's recommendation to conduct one comprehensive rulemaking to achieve this. In November 2016, EPA officials said they will continue to explore alternative methods for maintaining federal enforceability under the current statutory provisions; it plans to finish its efforts in January 2017. GAO will continue to monitor this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA's oversight of the class II program is effective at protecting drinking water sources from the underground injection of large amounts of wastewater that will be produced with increasing domestic oil and gas production, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should evaluate and revise, as needed, UIC program guidance on effective oversight to identify essential activities that EPA headquarters and regions need to conduct to effectively oversee state and EPA managed programs.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, EPA stated that it has developed a national framework for oversight of the UIC program and to transfer knowledge to new staff. EPA said that it will continue to evaluate whether to update its guidance. We are continuing to monitor EPA's progress on this recommendation.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To develop an estimate of the scope of work remaining to address uranium contamination on or near the Navajo reservation, Congress should consider requiring that the Environmental Protection Agency take the lead and work with the other federal agencies to develop an overall estimate of the remaining scope of the work, time frames, and costs.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, we are not aware of any legislation being enacted to address this matter for congressional consideration.
    Recommendation: In light of the problems BIA has encountered in managing the cleanup at the Tuba City Dump site, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to employ best practices in creating the schedule and cost estimates for the remedial action cleanup phase.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: In light of the problems BIA has encountered in managing the cleanup at the Tuba City Dump site, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to identify and examine any lessons learned from managing the remedial investigation and feasibility study contract and consider these lessons as part of the acquisition planning process for the remedial action contract.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To take advantage of opportunities to collect UCMR data on additional unregulated contaminants, Congress should consider amending SDWA to give EPA the flexibility to select more than 30 contaminants for monitoring under the UCMR program if high-priority contaminants, such as those on the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) or contaminants of emerging concern, can be included at minimal cost, with minimal additional burden on public water systems, and while using analytical methods that EPA is already employing.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Recommendation: To optimize the ability of the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations, Congress should consider adjusting the statutory time frames for the UCMR and regulatory determinations cycles so that EPA can use the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations in the same cycle.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Director: Crosse, Marcia G
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve CTP's ability to operate efficiently, achieve effective results, and plan appropriately, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to establish performance measures that include time frames for making final decisions on SE submissions and Exemption from SE submissions.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: FDA has established performance measures that include time frames for reviewing and acting on some of its new tobacco product submissions, including regular Substantial Equivalence (SE) submissions and Exemption from SE submissions, received in fiscal years 2015 through 2018. However, as of September, 2017, FDA has not developed performance measures for provisional SE submissions, the type of SE submissions that represent new tobacco products that may continue to be marketed unless and until FDA's Center for Tobacco Products finds that they are not substantially equivalent. We are keeping this recommendation open until the agency establishes performance measures, including time frames for making final decisions, for provisional SE submissions.
    Recommendation: To improve CTP's ability to operate efficiently, achieve effective results, and plan appropriately, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to monitor FDA's performance relative to those time frames, such as evaluating whether staff are performing reviews of these submissions efficiently and effectively.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: FDA has established and monitors performance measures that include time frames for reviewing and acting on regular SE submissions, Exemption from SE requests, and Modified Risk Tobacco Product applications for fiscal years 2015 through 2018. However, because the agency has not yet reported establishing and monitoring performance measures for provisional SE submissions, we are leaving this recommendation open as of August 2017.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To ensure that EPA maximizes its limited resources and addresses the statutory, regulatory, and programmatic needs of EPA program offices and regions when IRIS toxicity assessments are not available, and once demand for the IRIS Program is determined, the EPA Administrator should direct the Deputy Administrator, in coordination with EPA's Science Advisor, to develop an agencywide strategy to address the unmet needs of EPA program offices and regions that includes, at a minimum: (1) coordination across EPA offices and with other federal research agencies to help identify and fill data gaps that preclude the agency from conducting IRIS toxicity assessments, and (2) guidance that describes alternative sources of toxicity information and when it would be appropriate to use them when IRIS values are not available, applicable, or current.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of August 2017, EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program officials stated that IRIS assessments that support policy and regulatory decisions for EPA's programs and regions, and state agencies, are being consolidated into a new portfolio to optimize the application of best available science and technology. According to IRIS Program officials, the new portfolio is being shaped for use by many EPA program and regional offices, states, and other federal agencies. IRIS Program officials told us that they expect these changes to significantly increase the number of completed assessments. GAO will update this recommendation after receiving documentation that elaborates on the new portfolio, or other efforts, that strengthen coordination across EPA offices and with other federal research agencies to help identify and fill data gaps, and describe alternative sources of information, consistent with the intent of the original recommendation.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: 202-512-9338

    5 open recommendations
    including 4 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure the credibility of IRIS assessments by enhancing their timeliness and certainty, the EPA Administrator should require the Office of Research and Development to assess the feasibility and appropriateness of the established time frames for each step in the IRIS assessment process and determine whether different time frames should be established, based on complexity or other criteria, for different types of IRIS assessments.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of Fall 2017, EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program officials told GAO that IRIS assessments that support policy and regulatory decisions for EPA's programs and regions, and state agencies, are being consolidated into a new portfolio to optimize the application of best available science and technology. According to IRIS Program officials, the IRIS workflow will be reoriented and timelines and resources will be tailored to fit the intended purpose of the IRIS assessment. This approach was presented to EPA's Science and Technology Policy Council in July 2017 and was presented to the Science Advisory Board's Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee in September 2017 for their consideration and evaluation. In addition, according to EPA IRIS officials, there were improvements in project management for IRIS assessments, such as working with IRIS assessment chemical managers individuals who manage IRIS assessments to develop timelines and a system that tracks the portfolio of IRIS products in development, to allow the IRIS Program to more effectively use resources across assessment projects and ensure timely delivery of products. GAO continues to believe that these efforts show important progress, but that EPA needs to continue to determine whether different time frames should be established for different types of assessments, and the feasibility and appropriateness of the established time frames.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the credibility of IRIS assessments by enhancing their timeliness and certainty, the EPA Administrator should require the Office of Research and Development, should different time frames be necessary, to establish a written policy that clearly describes the applicability of the time frames for each type of IRIS assessment and ensures that the time frames are realistic and provide greater predictability to stakeholders.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of Fall 2017, EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program officials told GAO that they met with the Science Advisory Board's Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee in September 2017 to discuss responses to this recommendation. After the meeting, EPA's IRIS Program officials expect to issue a public statement that will emphasize the new portfolio approach to chemical evaluation and reflect that IRIS milestones will be varying based on the scale and type of assessment needed. EPA's IRIS Program officials told GAO that these activities will also provide the Program an opportunity to evaluate whether additional training on project management has provided the consistency in planning and delivery that was expected. GAO continues to believe that EPA has made progress and we will continue to review information provided by EPA as the agency works to ensure that the time frames are realistic and provide greater predictability to stakeholders.
    Recommendation: To ensure that current and accurate information on chemicals that EPA plans to assess through IRIS is available to IRIS users--including stakeholders such as EPA program and regional offices, other federal agencies, and the public--the EPA Administrator should direct the Office of Research and Development to annually publish the IRIS agenda in the Federal Register each fiscal year.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of Fall 2017, EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program officials told GAO that starting in 2017, on an annual basis, the IRIS Program is reviewing the information in the December 2015 Multi-Year Agenda to ensure that it remains responsive to GAO's recommendation. According to IRIS Program officials, this process was informal in 2017 but will be formalized starting in 2018 and updates to the Multi-Year Agenda will be published on the IRIS website and disseminated appropriately. GAO continues to believe that current and accurate information on the chemicals EPA plans to assess through IRIS should be made available to IRIS users. As the program continues its work, GAO will monitor EPA's progress to determine if information is provided annually in the Federal Register.
    Recommendation: To ensure that current and accurate information on chemicals that EPA plans to assess through IRIS is available to IRIS users--including stakeholders such as EPA program and regional offices, other federal agencies, and the public--the EPA Administrator should direct the Office of Research and Development to indicate in published IRIS agendas which chemicals EPA is actively assessing and when EPA plans to start assessments of the other listed chemicals.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of Fall 2017, EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program officials told GAO that starting in 2017, on an annual basis, the IRIS Program is reviewing the information in the December 2015 Multi-Year Agenda to ensure that it remains responsive to GAO's recommendation. According to IRIS Program officials, this process was informal in 2017, but will be formalized starting in 2018, and updates to the Multi-Year Agenda will be published on the IRIS website and disseminated appropriately. EPA IRIS Program officials stated that they received feedback from the Science Advisory Board's Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee in September 2017. IRIS officials intend to publish an updated Agenda that will list which chemicals EPA is actively assessing and when EPA plans to start assessments of the other listed chemicals. GAO continues to believe that annually providing current and accurate information on chemicals that EPA plans to assess through the IRIS program is critical for IRIS users as well as specifically identifying which chemicals EPA is actively assessing and when EPA plans to start assessments of the other listed chemicals.
    Recommendation: To ensure that current and accurate information on chemicals that EPA plans to assess through IRIS is available to IRIS users--including stakeholders such as EPA program and regional offices, other federal agencies, and the public--the EPA Administrator should direct the Office of Research and Development to update the IRIS Substance Assessment Tracking System (IRISTrack) to display all current information on the status of assessments of chemicals on the IRIS agenda, including projected and actual start dates, and projected and actual dates for completion of steps in the IRIS process, and keep this information current.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of August 2017, EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program officials stated that starting in 2017, on an annual basis, the IRIS Program is reviewing the information in the December 2015 Multi-Year Agenda to ensure that it remains responsive to GAO's recommendation. According to EPA IRIS Program officials, this process was informal in 2017 but will be formalized starting in 2018, and updates to the Multi-Year Agenda will be published on the IRIS website and disseminated appropriately. EPA IRIS Program officials stated that they received feedback from the Science Advisory Board's Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee in September 2017. Officials indicated that after the feedback is received, the IRIS website will be updated with information consistent with GAO's recommendation, such as projected and actual start dates. GAO will monitor EPA's progress, and consider whether updates are annually providing current and accurate information on chemicals that EPA plans to assess through the IRIS program, as necessary for IRIS users.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202)512-9338

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase EPA's consistency, transparency, and clarity in implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act in a way that better assures the public of safe drinking water, and to systematically implement the statutory requirement to consider for regulation the contaminants that present the greatest public health concern, the EPA Administrator should require that the Office of Water to develop a coordinated process for obtaining both the occurrence and health effects data that may be needed for the agency to make informed regulatory determinations on these priority contaminants.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, while EPA cited the January 2016 document, "EPA's Protocol for the Regulatory Determinations 3," that includes clearer, more explicit description of the occurrence data EPA uses and the health assessment sources, it does not address the recommendation's intent that EPA develop a coordinated process for obtaining both the occurrence and health effects data that may be needed for the agency to make informed regulatory determinations on priority contaminants. Since most, if not all of the sources cited are data that EPA was using at the time the report was issued, GAO is keeping this recommendation open. As GAO reported, the approach EPA currently uses does not provide the agency with all of the data it needs in a timely manner to support determinations for some priority contaminants.
    Recommendation: In light of EPA's decisions to issue health advisories in conjunction with determinations to not regulate certain contaminants that have been detected in some public water systems at levels of public health concern, the EPA Administrator should (1) determine whether the Office of Water's use of health advisories provides sufficient information on these unregulated contaminants to support timely and effective actions by states, localities, public water systems, and the public to ensure the safety of public drinking water, and (2) if not, direct the Office of Water to develop a plan to more effectively communicate such information to these entities.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA indicated that its Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisories tables provide a summary of previously published concentrations of drinking water contaminants that are protective of public health, and that the agency periodically updates these tables to summarize health advisories and regulations published to date. Since the table was last updated in 2012, and work is underway to revise it and make the information more accessible, GAO will monitor EPA's progress before closing this recommendation.
    Director: Currie, Christopher
    Phone: (404)679-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to help build and maintain a national biosurveillance capability---an inherently interagency enterprise---the Homeland Security Council should direct the National Security Staff to, in coordination with relevant federal agencies, charge this focal point with the responsibility for developing, in conjunction with relevant federal agencies, a national biosurveillance strategy that: 1) defines the scope and purpose of a national capability; 2) provides goals, objectives and activities, priorities, milestones, and performance measures; 3) assesses the costs and benefits associated with supporting and building the capability and identifies the resource and investment needs, including investment priorities; 4) clarifies roles and responsibilities of leading, partnering, and supporting a national capability; and 5) articulates how the strategy is integrated with and supports other related strategies' goals, objectives, and activities.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Homeland Security Council
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2012, the White House released the National Strategy for Biosurveillance to describe the U.S. government's approach to strengthening biosurveillance. A strategic implementation plan was to be completed within 120 days of the strategy issuance. As we testified in September 2012, the strategy did not fully meet the intent of our recommendation; however, when the implementation plan is complete, it may meet our recommendation. Specifically, the strategy did not provide the mechanism GAO recommended to identify resource and investment needs, including investment priorities. As of September 2015, GAO has not received a copy of the implementation plan for review and has not been able to confirm that it has been finalized and is considered operational by the White House and the key interagency partners.
    Director: Stephenson, John B
    Phone: (202)512-6225

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Because EPA alone cannot address the complexities of the nation's challenges in addressing environmental health risks for children, Congress may wish to consider re-establishing a government-wide task force on children's environmental health risks, similar to the one previously established by Executive Order 13045 and co-chaired by the Administrator of EPA and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Congress may wish to consider charging it with identifying the principal environmental health threats to children and developing national strategies for addressing them. Congress may also wish to consider establishing in law the Executive Order's requirement for periodic reports about federal research findings and research needs regarding children's environmental health.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, we have not identified actions by the Congress to establish in law requirements such as those in EO 13025.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202)512-6225

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To develop timely chemical risk information that EPA needs to effectively conduct its mission, the Administrator, EPA, should require the Office of Research and Development to re-evaluate its draft proposed changes to the IRIS assessment process in light of the issues raised in this report and ensure that any revised process periodically assesses the level of resources that should be dedicated to this significant program to meet user needs and maintain a viable IRIS database.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of August 2017, EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program officials told GAO that they are in the process of directly reviewing program and regional office priority needs annually and will then evaluate the December 2015 Multi-Year Agenda and realign resources and priories as needed. EPA IRIS Program officials stated that this review will occur in 2017, and subsequently they plan to receive feedback from the Science Advisory Board's Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee in September 2017. After the feedback is received, they will formalize this process starting in 2018. When GAO receives documentation regarding the periodic assessments of resources that should be dedicated to the program to meet user needs and to maintain a viable IRIS database, GAO will reevaluate the status of this recommendation.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202)512-6225

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better enable EPA and its partner agencies to minimize the environmental risks resulting from future disasters, the EPA Administrator should work with potentially affected federal land management agencies, the Coast Guard, DHS, and FEMA to determine what actions are needed to ensure that environmental contamination on federal lands, such as national wildlife refuges, can be expeditiously and efficiently addressed in future disasters. Potential actions include the development of protocols or memorandums of understanding or amendments to the Stafford Act if the agencies determine that amendments are needed to achieve the timely availability of such funding when responding to disasters involving federal lands.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2016, EPA reported that the National Response Team considered this issue but decided that it was addressed by the Major Disasters, Section 405 of the Stafford Act and that no further action was needed. We will update the status of this recommendation when we complete our review of Section 405 and determine whether additional actions by EPA are needed to respond to disasters involving federal lands.
    Director: Stephenson, John B
    Phone: (202)512-6225

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should take a number of steps to further protect the American public from elevated lead levels in drinking water. Specifically, to improve EPA's ability to oversee implementation of the lead rule and assess compliance and enforcement activities, EPA should ensure that data on water systems' test results, corrective action milestones, and violations are current, accurate, and complete.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2017, EPA reported to GAO that the agency had been working with states through face-to-face trainings and webinars on the reporting of milestone data. GAO will continue to monitor these efforts and reevaluate whether water systems' test results, corrective action milestones and violations are current, accurate and complete subsequent to the completion of the Compliance Monitoring Data Portal and the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) Prime, described briefly below. However, until these new tools are complete, the status of this recommendation remains open. According to EPA, SDWIS Prime will be available for testing in September 2017 and for state use at the end of March 2018. In an earlier update to GAO in June 2016, EPA highlighted several of its efforts to improve data quality, noting that it had given greater scrutiny to such improvements due to recent concerns about elevated lead in drinking water. For example, its SDWIS regional coordinators review all SDWIS data submissions for accuracy and timeliness before approving submittals to the agency. In addition, EPA provides the Regions and the States with a data quality matrix report that gives metrics on the accuracy and timeliness of the last submission, after each quarterly submission. The agency has also focused on promoting electronic reporting of drinking water data through development of the Compliance Monitoring Data Portal, and is developing SDWIS Prime to improve state program efficiency, automate candidate violation notifications, increase data submission quality, and promote reporting of compliance monitoring data.
    Director: Dyckman, Lawrence J
    Phone: (202)512-9692

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide more efficient, consistent, and effective federal oversight of the nation's food supply, Congress should consider commissioning the National Academy of Sciences or a blue ribbon panel to conduct a detailed analysis of alternative organizational food safety structures and report the results of such an analysis to Congress.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: The 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act established a national Food Safety Commission charged with making specific recommendations for drafting legislative language. Among other things, the Commission is to make recommendations on how to improve the food safety system, create a harmonized, central framework for managing federal food safety programs, and enhance the effectiveness of federal food safety resources. However, as of January 2017, as far as current staff can ascertain, the Commission was never formed, and no recommendations were ever produced. Thus, although Congress acted to create a food safety commission through legislation, the substance of our matter--recommendations for analyzing alternative food safety structures--was not implemented. GAO subsequently made the same matter for congressional consideration in several later products, and the matter also appeared in the annual DOF report. As of January 2017, no action had been taken. Therefore, in January 2017, we reopened this matter.