Used Oil Collection and Disposal Practices Followed by Federal Agencies

Gao ID: PLRD-83-12 December 8, 1982

In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed matters concerning the collection of used oil and disposal practices of selected federal agencies. GAO was specifically asked to: (1) review actions taken by the Department of Defense (DOD) in response to a 1977 GAO report regarding improved oil recycling; (2) compare waste oil recovery and disposal practices of several agencies, including those in the New York City area; (3) determine the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in developing governmental policy on used oil recovery; and (4) assess whether EPA or any other federal agency has developed an effective governmentwide policy for environmentally safe and conservation-oriented handling of used motor oil.

GAO found that many installations and activities were not following DOD policies and procedures regarding oil recycling and reuse. Practices tended to mitigate against oil refining and in some instances used oil was sold rather than recycled as a fuel. GAO noted that earlier recommendations had directed the Secretary of Defense to direct the Army, Navy, and Air Force to follow DOD guidance. GAO reviewed oil collection, storage, and disposal practices at vehicle and maintenance shops operated by civil agencies in the New York City area and found that, although the agencies recognized the importance of environmental protection and resource conservation, they provided little guidance on handling used oil. GAO learned that agencies were selling or giving used oil to collectors, who appeared to sell it to others, which is in violation of federal property disposal regulations. This practice is being brought to the attention of the relevant agencies. GAO learned that EPA has gathered information to quantify the extent of hazardous material in used oil and that preliminary results indicate that hazardous adulteration of used oil is common. Finally, GAO found that there is no formal governmentwide policy specifying how federal agencies must handle their used oil to ensure environmental protection and resource conservation.

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