Assessment of EPA's Hazardous Waste Enforcement Strategy

Gao ID: RCED-85-166 September 5, 1985

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed and summarized the information obtained through the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement Strategy. Congress provided EPA with funds to develop a compliance monitoring and enforcement policy, and a schedule to ensure 90-percent compliance with these requirements because of its concerns about the low level of compliance with groundwater monitoring standards.

Under RCRA, EPA has promulgated design and operations requirements for approximately 5,000 treatment, storage, and disposal facilities and, along with authorized states, is responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements. GAO found that: (1) EPA is working on a technical enforcement guidance document to improve the clarity and enforceability of groundwater monitoring requirements; (2) the EPA enforcement strategy lays out a detailed framework for inspections, follow-up intervals, and enforcement; (3) EPA requested a budget increase for its RCRA enforcement program which GAO was unable to determine was necessary, because of the lack of EPA analysis showing what resources were required; (4) the strategy did not identify the training or skills mix needed to meet the 90-percent compliance goal and there was evidence of training shortages in the groundwater monitoring area; (5) EPA does not track progress toward meeting the 90-percent compliance goal; and (6) while EPA strategy recognizes the importance of federal/state relations, it had not communicated the compliance goal to the states. GAO developed a report format to assess the status of and progress in achieving the 90-percent compliance goal that included: (1) the requirements to be tracked; (2) the number of facilities subject to each requirement; (3) the number of facilities in compliance at the end of the selected reporting period; and (4) the percentage of facilities in compliance.

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