Hazardous Waste: Agencies Should Take Steps to Improve Information on USDA’s and Interior’s Potentially Contaminated Sites

US Government Accountability Office

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior (Interior) have identified many contaminated and potentially contaminated sites, but neither agency has a complete inventory. As of April 2014, USDA had identified 1,491 contaminated sites and many potentially contaminated sites, including landfills and shooting ranges. However, USDA does not have a reliable, centralized site inventory or plans and procedures for completing one, in particular, for abandoned mines. Without a reliable inventory or plans and procedures for developing one, USDA cannot effectively manage its cleanup programs…

Why GAO Did This Study

USDA and Interior manage over 600 million acres of land, including sites contaminated from prior uses or events, such as mining or toxic spills. These lands are managed by five Interior agencies, including BLM and the National Park Service, and five USDA agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service. These agencies must identify and report to EPA certain facilities that may threaten human health or the environment and, under some circumstances, clean them up. They must also report cost estimates for addressing contamination at certain sites, called environmental liabilities. GAO was asked to review the status of USDA’s and Interior’s potentially contaminated sites. This report examines USDA’s and Interior’s (1) efforts to identify these sites, (2) funding to address the sites, (3) reported environmental liabilities, and (4) EPA’s role in addressing the sites. GAO reviewed relevant laws and government accounting standards; examined agencies’ policies, site inventory data from September 2013 to July 2014, and financial statements; and interviewed EPA, Interior, and USDA officials

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that USDA develop plans and procedures for completing its site inventories and that EPA clarify which USDA and Interior sites need an environmental assessment.


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