Status of Air Force Efforts To Deal With Groundwater Contamination Problems at McClellan Air Force Base

Gao ID: NSIAD-84-37 November 29, 1983

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Air Force efforts relating to ground water contamination at McClellan Air Force Base, focusing on: (1) the adequacy of a technical report that was to determine the extent of ground water contamination and suggest solutions; (2) Air Force procedures for releasing contamination data and reports to the public; (3) Air Force actions to improve its program for resolving pollution problems; and (4) procedures for ensuring safe drinking water.

GAO found that the technical report was supposed to determine the extent of ground water contamination at McClellan and recommend actions to mitigate adverse environmental effects, restore the local environment to normality, and provide for future environmental monitoring. The contractor that performed the report concluded from the data collected that cleanup measures would be either ineffective or too costly. The Environmental Protection Agency and state and local regulatory agencies indicated that: (1) the study did not determine the amount and type of hazardous wastes at various disposal sites on the base; (2) off-base data were needed to completely identify the magnitude of contamination in the area; (3) the study may not have determined the rate and direction of contaminant movement; and (4) some of the monitoring and sampling procedures used in the study were questionable. GAO found that state and local efforts to deal with ground water contamination in the McClellan area have been hampered by a lack of information from and coordination with federal, state, and local regulatory agencies, but that the situation has been improved by several recent Air Force actions designed to: (1) clarify responsibility for off-base actions; (2) reduce delays in the release of data to concerned groups outside the Air Force; and (3) improve coordination with regulatory agencies. GAO also found that, while McClellan has reduced contamination levels substantially since the problem was discovered, more work is necessary to ensure acceptable water quality.

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