Federal Agencies Slow to Respond to Pollution Woes / According to General Accounting Office Reports

Article excerpt

While theFederal Aviation Administration has admitted to slowness in responding to pollution problems at its Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, that is not unusual when put in a national perspective.

Federal agencies across the country are slow to implement measures designed to control and reduce pollution, according to two separate General Accounting Office reports.

- The first report, issued in May 1986, deals with federal civilian agencies and their response to regulations promulgated mainly under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA).

- The second report, in July of this year, deals with federal civilian agencies again and their implementation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, otherwise known as Superfund.

The first report, requested by U.S. Rep. James Florio, who chairs the House subcommittee on Commerce, Transportation and Tourism, reviewed 17 federal agencies in 12 states and found that "federal agency performance in implementing RCRA (the Recource Conservation and Recovery Act) has been less than exemplary."

The report, "Federal Civil Agencies Slow To Comply With Regulatory Requirements," also said the agencies have been slow in developing an awareness and understanding of their responsibilities of the 1976 act and have been slow to establish programs to carry out the act's requirements.

"Over 70 percent of the identified (hazardous waste) handlers reviewed had not been inspected and of those that had been inspected," the report said, "almost half had violations.

"Agency actions to correct identified problems have taken extended periods of time," the report continued, "and few enforcement actions other than warning letters have been used by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) or the states to elicit greater agency attention to the problems."

The report also said while greater attention has been paid to requirements to clean up their disposal practices, federal agency performance across the country remains "varied and inconsistent."

Of the 247 known handlers of waste in the 12 states that GAO visited, the report added, only 72, or 29 percent, had been inspected by the EPA or some state environmental agency to verify that the handler was complying with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Of those 72 that had been inspected, 33 or almost half were identified as having been cited for one or more violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 requirements. …