The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to enforce laws requiring land disposal facilities to certify compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or shut down, according to a report by the General Accounting Office (GAO). The GAO is an investigative arm of the Congress. On November 8, 1985, land disposal operators were supposed to certify that they were in compliance with RCRA or cease operation.
GAO reports that only 543 of 1538 land disposal operations land disposal facilities nationwide actually certified compliance with RCRA. The remaining 995 were thus legally required to close down.
According to the law, the 995 had exactly one year in which to submit closure plans to the EPA, to receive approval for the plan from EPA, and to close down.
In the three EPA regions surveyed by GAO in September, 1986, less than two months from the statutory deadline, only 2 of 458 non-complying land disposal operations (0.4%) had actually closed. Only 191 closure plans (19%) had been approved nationwide.
EPA officials say their poor performance is attributable to insufficient resources for getting the job done. They say certification of closure plans may take another three years, given the staffing available to do the job. Meanwhile, they agree that the non-complying facilities "represent a potential environmental hazard."
The GAO report, titled, "Hazardous Waste: Enforcement of Certification Requirements for Land Disposal
Facilities" [GAO/RCED 87 60BR], is available free from: GAO, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, MD 20877;
phone: (202) 275-6241.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: misfeasance; studies;