Uesonrces, Community, and Economic Development Division D-240318 September 28,1990 The Honorable Henry J. Nowak Chairman, Subcommittee on Water Resources committee on Public Works and Transportation House of Representatives Dear Mr. Chairman: As you requested, we have reviewed the progress the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes National Program Office has made in (1) defining its role within EPA and involving other EPA offices in implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and (2) coordinating the efforts of other federal agencies. Our report also discusses other key issues affecting efforts to resolve the Great Lakes’ water quality problems. Unless you publicly release its contents earlier, we wiI1 make this report available to other interested parties 30 days after the date of this letter. At that time, we wilI send copies to the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; the Secretaries of the Army, the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce; the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; and other interested parties. This work was done under the direction of Richard L. Hembra, Director of Environmental Protection Issues, who may be reached at (202) 275-6111. Other major contributors are listed in appendix III. Sincerely yours, I/d J.Assistant Dexter Peach Comptroller General -- More than 45 million people from the L’nited States and Canada rely on the Great Lakes for a variety of uses,including drinking water. How- ever, the water quality of the Great Lakes and their tributaries has dete- riorated over the years becauseof industrial development, urbanization, and agricultural activities. To deal with this problem, the U.S. and Cana- dian governments entered into the Great Lakes Water Quality Agree- ment in 1972. Later revisions strengthened the Agreement as awareness grew about the dangers of toxic pollutants in the lake. The Environ- mental Protection Agency (EPA), through its Great Lakes National Pro- gram Office (Program Office). oversees and coordinates the fulfillment of the IJnited States’ obligations under the Agreement. Reflecting concern about the ability of the Program Office to fulfill its mission, the Chairman. Subcommittee on Water Resources, House Com- mittee on Public Works and Transportation. asked GAO to examine the progress the Program Office has made in (1) defining its role within EPA and invoh$ng other EPA offices in implementing the Agreement and (2) coordinating the efforts of other federal agencies. GAO also discusses other key issues affecting the Great Lakes’ water quality. The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement contains 17 annexes defining Background the specific programs and activities the two governments have agreed to undertake. A key annex calls for the preparation of plans to ensure that programs to rehabilitate the Great Lakes’ water quality are developed and implemented. Remedial Action Plans define actions and timetables for restoring water quality in 42 “areas of concern” in the Great Lakes Basin of both the United States and Canada The development of these plans involves all pertinent agencies.communities, and programs. Whereas these plans focus on specific near-shore areas, Lakewide Man- agement Plans serve the same function for open lake waters. In 1978. ~~4’s Region V (Chicago) office established the Program Office as the focal point to plan, coordinate. and oversee cleanup efforts by EPA divisions, other federal agencies, and the Great Lakes states. As GAO noted in a 1982 report on efforts to clean up the Great Lakes (~~~82-63, May 21,1982), however, the Program Office was continually frustrated in its attempts to accomplish these objectives. GAO noted that the Pro- gram Office did not have a clearly defmed role within EPA and that its contacts within EPA were largely limited to Region V, even though Regions II (Sew York) and III (Philadelphia) also had responsibilities regarding the Great Lakes. GAO also noted that the Program Office needed to improve its coordination with other federal agencies and states, and to solicit their support in implementing strategies for improving the Great Lakes’ water quality. Page 2 GAO/RCELbshl97 Water Pollotiom Reflecting similar rmncems by the Congress, the Water Quality Act of 198i formally required the Program Office to ( 1) identify problems regarding the Great Lakes. (2) coordinate the activities of organizations that could help solve these problems, and (3) reprt to the Congress on progrc% made in implementing the Agreement. In rtbcent years, the Program Office has taken steps to improve its visi- Results in Brief bility and its coordinating role within EPA by expanding its contacts with both headquarters and regional offices In addition, the Program Office establish4 the Great Lakes Advisory Committee in 1989 to further improve ccH)rdination within EN. The committee includes representation from all rhe key EM offices having responsibilities that affect the water qualit > of t ht* Great Lakes. The Program Office has also improved its coordination with agencies outside EI:\ that can affect the Great lakes’ water quality. In particular, the Office reached agreement with other agencies on how to implement many of the annexes and established the U.S. Policy Committee-a group consisting of senior officials from many federal and state agencies and other groups-to advise the United States on how to best address the Agreemenr. While these efforts have helped to achieve progress on most of the annexes, the development of Remedial Actian Plans and Laktwide Management Plans-key steps toward cleaning up the Great Lakes-is far behind schedule. 1Vhile improvements in the Program Office’s operations should help, a much larger effort is needed to address the serious pollution problems affecting the Great Lakes. Even the difficult challenge of developing Remedial Action Plans and Lakewide Management Plans, which will involve substantial commitments of tilme and resources by many organi- zations. are just initial steps in planning the cleanup. Carrying the plans out will take decades and will require more effective pollution control programs by EPA and both the public and private sectors. Principal Findings Steps to Improve Internal The Program Office has taken several steps in recent years to improve coclrdination within EPA at both the regional and the headquarters level. EPA Coordination At the regional level. the Program Office has (1) expanded its contacts Page :I E%tcutive summuy with Regions II and III and (2) increased its funding of Region II projects, thus attempting to change the perception within EPA that the Program Office is merely an extension of Region V. At the headquars level, the Program Office has worked with the Office of Marine and Estuarine Protection and individual estuary programs to help develop policies and activities directly affecting the Great Lakes. It has also entered into agreements with EPA’S Office of Research and Development to fund a variety of research projects on the Great Lakes. ,Vevertheless, greater coordination with other headquarters offices was needed, since the Program Office’s mandate was to develop a compre- hensive “ecosystem” approach that considers all sources of pollution affecting the Great Lakes. Accordingly, the Office established the Great Lakes Advisory Committee in 1989. While the number of headquarters offices with key programs affecting the Great Lakes was initially lim- ited, the Administrator added other key EPAoffices in April 1990.The Office of Air and Radiation was added, for example, because the atmos- phere contributes toxic chemicals tc the Great Lakes. Enhanced Coordination in Improved coordination and cooperation beLween the Program Office and other federal agencies hb. e resulted in progress in meeting many of the Plan Development Is Agreement’s annexes, including annexes intended to help resolve con- Needed taminated sediment, airborne toxic substances, and other problems. However, the completion of the most important and difficult annex, which calls for the development of Remedial Action Plans and Lakewide .Management Plans, has been delayed for years. Representatives from state and local agencies and public interest groups engaged in developing these key plans maintain that the Program Office needs to be more involved to speed their development. However, Pro- gram Office staff told us that while they are augmenting their role some- what, (1) resource limitations prevent the Office from doing substantially more to advance these plans beyond providing basic gui- dance and some technical assistance, (2) the task is primarily a responsi- bility of state and local governments through implementation of their water pollution contro1 programs, and (3) EPA’S three Great Lakes regions should also play a larger role than they have in the past. CAObelieves that because of the importance of developing plans to clean up the Great Lakes- and the lack of progress in achieving this objec- tive-these issues need to be resolved. The U.S. Policy Committee, cre- ated in 1989 to recommend ways to improve coordination and Rgt 4 Gio/ltcED#1B7 w&au Pou?lh cooperation among federal and state agencies and environmental groups as they implement the Agreement, appears to be uniquely situated to help resolve this disagreement. Indeed, officials from the Program Office and other agencies who are members of the Committee told GAO that such a role would be appropriate for this newly formed Committee, since it already brings together the federal, state, local, and other inter- ests that will ultimately be involved in cleaning up the Great Lakes. They also agreed that whiIe the Committee was initially established by the Program Office, it operates with considerable independence, which would enhance the credibility of its recommendations. Xeanup of the Great Even though progress has been made in completing the annexes, cleaning up the Great Lakes will be costly and will take well into the akes Will Be Costly next century. The Program Office can play an important role in this effort by helping to coordinate the efforts of organizations at all levels of government and by providing direct technical support in certain instances. However, the Program Office’s potential contribution should be evaluated in the context of the enormous task at hand. Ilhstrating the enormity of this task, a recent GAO report (GAOIRCED~~I~~, Aug. 10, 1988) estimated that it would cost over $1.8 billion to bring Michigan’s Rouge River, one of the 42 areas of concern, up to public health stan- dards by the year 2005. Realistically, therefore, success in cleaning up the Great Lakes will depend much more heavily OFthe level of commit- ment and resources the nation and the Great Lakes region are willing to devote to the effort. &commendations problems of the Great Lakes, and in particular to speed progress on the development of Remedial Action Plans and Lakewide Management Plans, GAO recommends that the EPA Administrator request. that the U.S. Policy Committee assess,identify, and recommend appropriate roles and responsibilities for the Program Office and other organizations in devel- oping these plans. lgency Comments erally agreed with its accuracy. Their comments have been included where appropriate. However, as requested, GAO did not obtain official comments on a draft of this report. contents Executive Summary Chapter 1 8 Introduction Pollution Problems in the Great Lakes Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Subsequent 9 9 Revisions Creation of EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office 11 Objectives, Scope, and Methodology 14 Chapter 2 16 StepsTaken to GINPO’s Role Within EPA Expanded by 1987 Water Quality Act 16 Improve GLNPO’s Efforts Made to Improve Coordination With EPA 17 Coordination Within Headquarters EPA Regional Involvement Has Expanded and Improved 18 EPA Conclusions 20 Chapter 3 Greater EPA GLNPO’s Coordination With Other Agencies Initially Centered on IX 21 Invokezxnt Needed U.S. Policy Committee Established to Improve 22 in Coordinating Interagency Coordination GLNPO Has Coordinated With States and Other Agencies 23 RemedialAction plans in Implementing Annexes, but Key Plans Are Behind Schedule Improvement in Gathering Information From Federal 29 Agencies for Annual Report Conclusions 30 Recommendation 31 Chapter 4 32 XNPO in Perspective: Restoring the Great Lakes’ Water Quality Is a Monumental Task 32 Zeaning Up the Great Government Programs Need to Limit Toxic Discharges 33 LakesWill Be Costly More Effectively 36 md Will Take Decades Conclwiom P8ge 6 GA0/llcxwm197 water Pollution ppendixes Appendix I: GLNPO Or@niiMoti Chart Appendix II: Federal Agencies With Key Roles in the Cleanup of the Great Lakes Appendix III: Major Contibutors to This Report igures Figure 1.1: The Great Lakes Basin Figure 1.2: Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin Abbreviations DDT dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane EPA Environmental Protection Agency GAO General Accounting Office GLIWO Great Lakes National Program Office LJC International Joint Commission LMP Lakewide Management Plan No&L4 National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration NPDES Kational Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Fa polychlorinated biphenyl RAP Remedial Action Plan hapter 1 ‘ntroduction . The five Great Lakes-Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario- together form the largest freshwater system on earth. The Great Lakes represent 20 percent of the world’s and 95 percent of the United States’ supply of fresh water. Approximately 23.5 million people use 3 billion gallons of fresh water each day from the Great Lakes for domestic pur- poses. In addition, more than 46 million people in two Canadian prov- inces and eight U.S. states rely on the Great Lakes for economic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits (see fig. 1.1). lure 1.1: The Great Lskos Basin PIge 8 GAO,‘lICED~I97 Waer Pollution chapter 1 Intiuctian A Years of urbanization, industrial development, and agricultural activi- ution Problems in ties have impaired the water quality of the Great Lakes. While progress Great Lakes has been made in alleviating certain problems, concerns over high levels of toxic contaminants found in the lakes raise serious questions about their future. The most significant improvement in the Great Lakes’ water quality in recent years resulted from reductions in phosphorus contar&ation. Phosphorus causes excessive algae growth, which greatly reduced the fish populations in the Great Lakes. In fact, at the peak of the phos- phorus problem, scientists feared that parts of Lake Erie would no longer be able to support fish life. However, the construction of sewage treatment plants, reduction of phosphates in detergents, and control of runoff from rural and urban areas around the Great Lakes significantly reduced the level of phosphorus. The phosphorus problem, however, increased concern for the Great Lakes and led the way to an awareness of the dangers posed by toxic contaminants. Toxic contaminants come from many sources and are more difficult to detect than phosphorus. Furthermore, many of the effects of toxic contaminants, and the best ways to reduce their pres- ence, are still unhewn. However, scientists do know that these sub- stances pose significant threats to wildlife and human health. Many species in the Great Lakes have been harmed or eliminated, including bald eagles, gulls, and otters. Regarding human health, ahzming results were reported from a recent study on long-term exposure to low levels of toxic substances. The study concluded that babies born to mothers who ate contaminated fiih from the Great Lakes are more likely to be born prematurely, weigh less, have smaller head sizes, and exhibit slower emotional responses than babies whose mothers ate little or no contaminated fish. In addition, other research studies on human health indicate adverse effects from eating fish from the Great Lakes, including the increased risk of cancer. In 1909, recognizing their mutual interests in the Great Lakes and other at Lakes Water boundary waters, the United States and Canada signed the Boundary dity Agreement Waters Treaty, which gave both countries equal rights to use the water- i Subsequent ways that cross the international border. The Treaty also established the International Joint Commission (IJC), a permanent biiational agency isions organized to resolve and prevent disputes concerned with the waters along the Canada-United States border. f- l > Page 9 GAOV197 Wder Pollution chapter I IlltiUCtiOU An increased concern over contaminants in the Great Lakes prompted both the U.S. and Canadian governments to sign the first international Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972 to restore and maintain the chemical physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes. The Agreement focused on controlling pesticides as a pin- cipal means of dealing with toxic pollution. The two countries signed a new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1978, which was revised in 1983. The 1978 Agreement reflected an increased understanding of the scope of pollution problems in the Great Lakes. It called for (1) controlling all toxic substances that could endanger the health of any living species and (2) restoring and enhancing water quality throughout the entire Great Lakes Basin. The 1983 supplement added the requirement to further limit phOsphOi?Jsdis- charges and prepare and implement plans for reducing phosphorus. Revisions to the Agreement in 1987 added requirements for the two countries to prepare Remzdiai Action Plans (RAPS)to address pollution problems in certain designated “areas of concern.” Areas of concern are geographic areas in the Great Lakes Basin that have failed to meet the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and where such failure has caused. or is likely to cause, impairment of beneficial uses. IX has identified 42 such areas in the Great Lakes Basin-2.5 in the United States, 5 shared by the United States and Canada, and 12 in Canada (see fig. 1.2). m were to define actions and timetables for restoring water quality in these areas. Similar plans-Lakewide Management Plans (Lvrs)--were to serve the same purpose for open lake waters. L%PSwere to be pre- pared by the two countries for each of the five lakes, except for Lake Michigan, which is the United States’ responsibility. In preparing ufps, the two countries were to consult with state and provincial govem- ments. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been charged with the responsibility of carrying out the nation’s role in developing and implementing %rs. In addition to requiring RAPSand LVPS,the Agreement contains 16other Ynnexes,” which define issues to be addressed and activities to be con- &cted by the two governments. These annexes address such issues as airborne toxic substances, contaminated sediment, and control of phosphorus. Page10 GAo/lIcED~l97 waw Pnllnthn Figura 1.2 Areas ol Concern in the Great L&es 3asin In 1972, EPA'S Region V (Chicago) &abhshed Se Office of Great Lakes Creation of EPA’s Coordinator to monitor a demon&xtinn program on the water quality of Great Lakes National the Great Lakes and to conduct reseaxil on the Red River (which Program Office crm the international boundary between Ontario end Minnesota). The Office operated with three technical sttf and one secretary. In 1978, EPA'S Region V established a larger coordinating office, the Great Lakes National Program Office (cm), to direct and ovemee fulf?illment of the nation’s obligation under the Agreement and any spending for that purpose. In 1982, we reported that GLNPO was having difficulty obtaining the cooperation it needed from EPA offices and other federal and state agen- cies to fulfill its mission.’ SpecikalIy, GLWO did not have the visibility, authority, and resources necessary to ensure that its Great Lake Water Quality Program could compete with other national programs. One of our recommendations was that GLNPO be allov~ed to coordinate actions within EPA and with other federal agencies and the states to ensure that their views were included in the development of strategies to improve the Great Lakes’ water quality. In the years following our report, however, the Administration attempted to eliminate GINO by excluding it from the Administration’s budget proposal. The Administration saw the problems regarding the Great Lakes as regional concerns and believed that the states and EPA regions should be responsible for addressii those problems. However, each time the Administration excluded GLNi, the Congress restored funding for the Office and EPA’S Region V provided staff and other support. In 1987, under the Water Quality Act, the Congress formally established a statutory mandate for GLAXO and gave the Office responsib&y for developing and implementing plans to carry out the Agreement. Specifi- cally, the act required GLPii to l cooperate with federal and state agencies in developing and imple- menting plans to carry out the United States’ responsibilities under the Agreement; l coordinate EPA’S efforts to improve the water quality of the Great Lakes; . monitor the water quality of the Great Lakes; 0 serve as a liaison with Canada; . coordinate EPA’S efforts with those of other federal agencies, as well as those of state and local agencies,to obtain the views of these agencies in developing strategies for improving water quality and their support in achieving the objectives in the Agreement; and ,’ l report annually to the Congress on the state of the lakes and on progress in meeting the United States’ obligations under the Agreement. ‘A More Comprehensive Approach Is Needed to Clean Up the Great Lakes (CED-82-63, May 2X. 1982). P8ge 12 GAO-197 Wmta ?dktim As presently structured, GLSKJ is a UtiqUe entity within EPA becauseit is associated with a specific area of the country but operates as a func- tional part of the Office of Water at EPA headquarters. It does not have authority over other EPA of&es, but rather coordinates the activities of other offices and helps to ensure that matters concerning the Great Lakes are considered in the agency’s policy and program decisions. GL..FO currently has a staff of about 30 scientists, engineers, and other professionals who work with offices throughout EPA, the Great Lakes states, other federal agencies, the Canadian government, the Ontario Provincial Government, LIC, colleges and universities, and public interest organizatiors It is organized into the Surveillance and Research Staff, the Environmental Planning Staff, and the Remedial Program Staff. Each participates in, coordinates. and facilitates actions by the majority of these organizations to ensure that environmental management deci- sions concerning the Great Lakes Basin reflect the Agreement’s objec- tives. (Seeapp. I for an organizational chart on the structure of GLSPO and its coordination activities.) GISPO formally coordinates EP.%‘s activities concerning the Great Lakes primarily through two committees: m The Great Lakes Coordinating Committee was established in 1980 to (1) serve as an titra-agency forum for EPA’s three Great Lakes regions and ~~4’s Office of Research and Development and (2) review and recom- mend proposed demonstration and research projects to be funded by GLVPO. . The Great Lakes Advisory Committee was established in 1989 primarily to coordinate activities between GLSFQ and EPA’Sheadquarters offices. The Coordinating Committee supports the Advisory Committee in a number of functions, including the determination of GLWO’S budget and work plan. In addition, GLWO created the U.S. Policy Committee in 1989 to improve coordination and cooperation between WA and other federal agencies, and to improve contacts with state agencies, environmental groups, and other interested parties. The Committee meets twice a year, just before the semiannual meeting between the United States and Canada. It focuses on what the United States’ position should be on policy and issues regarding the Great Lakes. Page 13 GA0/ucEww197 w8ter Pollntioa chapter I lncrodactlon Methodology Transportation. requested that we evaluate a number of issues affecting the ability of GLSPO to meet its responsibilities under the Water Quality Act. On the basis of subsequent meetings with the Chairman’s ctffice, we agreed to assess the progress (;I.M’~)has made in l defining its role within EP.\and involving other appropriate ES!-\offices in meeting the objectives of the Xgreement and the 198’7Water Quality Act, and l coordinating the efforts of other federal agencies and state and local governments in addressing thts ohjt~tivt~ of the .L\gret=mentand its annexes. To address the first objective, we identified CISI’O’Sefforts to involve other EIY offices through projects. intra-agency agreements anu intra- agency committees. In assessing the effectiveness of these efforts. we reviewed information from CI,MX EN headquarters offices (Air and Radiation. Water, Research and Development. and International Affairs): and EIY Water Division Offices in Regions II, III, and v (Sew York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. respectively). The key illformation we reviewed included (;Lsryjs workplan for achieving the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; fu.iding agreements for research and other activities between ~I.SIY,and other EI?% offices; and the mem- bership. objectives. and accomplishments of the committcns established to improve intra-agency coordination. To address the second objective. we collected information from federal agencies (Sational Oceanic and -4tmospheric -4dministration. I :.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Soil Ccmscnatirm Service, 1-S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I,‘.S. Coast Guard. and I ‘.S. Geological Survey) and lead state agencies for the Great Lakes. The information included views of cogni- zant officials at these agencies on ~LSPO’Sappropriate role and on how well CLSPOis coordinating programs regarding the Great Lakes. We also spoke to GLSPO officials to obtain their views on how they are. and should be, working with these federal agencies to implement the Agree- ment (e.g., through interagency agreements and funding of agencies’ research proposals). We also selected several of the Agreement’s anrexes to assessGL~PO’S effectiveness in coordinating the implementation of the Agreement’s key requirements by federal agencies. 1Vechose annex 7 (dredging). annex Page 14 GAO, IiCED Water Pnllutien chapter 1 Introduction 11 (surveillance and monitoring), and annex 15 (airborne toxic sub- stances) for our review because Gwpo staff said they had made the most progress on these annexes. We chose annex 14 (contaminated sediment) because it included the Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediment Program, which GLPml was dire&d to develop and implement. We chose annex 2 (RAPSand L,HPS)because it addresses cleaning up all sources of water pollution and involves the coordination and eoopera- tion of many agencies. We spoke with several environmental groups, such as Great Iakes United and the Sierra Club, to obtain their views on how well GLWO was coordinating federal and state efforts to address the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and meet the requirements of the 1987 Water Quality Act. We also gathered information from the Northeast-Midwest Institute and reexamined data from our own recent analysis of pollution in the Rouge River: to help determine the potential costs of cleaning up the Great Lakes. Our evaluation focused on GLSPO’S role in coordinating the United States’ efforts to meet the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agree- ment. We did not attempt to evaluate the role of Canada or its progress in cleaning up the Great Lakes or in implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. We conducted our work between May 1989 and March 1990, with updates through July 199% in accordance with generally accepted gov- ernment audit standards. During our review, we sought the views of GLSPO and other EPA officials responsible for activities concerning the Great Lakes, and their comments have been incorporated where appro- priate. However, in accordance with the wishes of the Chairman’s office, we did not request formal comments from EPA on a draft of this report -‘water Potlution: Effom to Clean L’p Michigan’s Rouge River IGAO/RCELHfWX. Aup. 14 1=X P8ge 15 GAO/iKTD9@191 Water Pohthn Chapter 2 steps Taken to Improve GLl!l!s Cbcdination Within EPA Since the 1987 Water Quality Act was passed, GLSSO has augmented its profile within EPA by participating in the development of EPA'S water policy, expandlng its contacts beyond Region V (C&ago) to include Regions ll (New York) and III (Philadelphia), devising a workplan for programs concerning the Great Lakes, and funding EPA regions’ water pollution projects for the Great Lakes. GINO alsOestablished the Great Lakes National Program Advisory Committee, composedof representa- tives of EPA'S three Great Lakes regional offices and all key headquar- ters offices with programs affecting the lakes’ water quality. The Advisory Committee helps to coordinate and review EPA’Spolicies and activities regarding the lakes and recommends which projects to fund. In April 1990, EPA expanded the composition of the Advisory &nmittee, a step that should further increase GLSPO’S effectiveness in coordinating EPA’S activities to improve the Great Lakes’ water quality. GLXPO’s Role Within hurt the Office’s ability to implement the Great Lakes Water Quality EPA Expanded by Agreement. WA Regions II and III were reluctant to commit resources to 1987 water Quality initiatives regarding the Great Lakes because they did not receive spe- cific funding for such purposes. In addition, GINO bad not delegated any Act responsibilities to Regions II and III. As a result, implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was largely left to Cm and Regio,? V. To ensure that GINO could more effectively fulfh its leader- ship role, we recommended that the EPA Administrator raise GISPO to a higher organizational level and give it the authority and resources nec- essary to coordinate EPA actions aimed at improving the Great Lakes’ water quality. It was not until the Water Quality Act of 1987, however, that progress was made toward addressing the issues identified in our 1982 report. At that time, the Congress assigned GLNPO an organizational identity within EPA, giving GLM-YJ its own budget, and charged it with developing an “ecosystem approach” (i.e., an approach that would address pollution problems in the entire Great Lakes Basin and consider all sources of pol- lution), as envisioned in the Agreement. The act also required GLWO to coordinate EPA headquarters and regional programs for improving the water quality of the Great Lakes. As discussed below, we found that since the act’s passage, GLXlW has taken steps to increase its involvement with EPA headquarters and regional offices responsible for the Great Lakes. Page16 GA0/mIms~197 W8tu Pouotioo The Agreement’s emphasis on an ecosystem approach to environmental Efforts Made to management necessitated that GLNPO be concerned with all types of Improve Coordination environmental management decisions involving the Great Lakes Basin. With EPA thIseqUently,GXSPO needsto COOrdinate activitiesat&? ni3tiOrdlevel with many of EPA’smedia programs, including programs for surface Headquarters water, groundwater, drinking water, air, hazardous waste, Super-fund, toxic substances, and pesticides. For example, the Office of Air and Radiation has jurisdiction over programs dealing with pollutants trans- ported from other geographical areas through the atmosphere, a major contributor of certain toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes. Similarly, the Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances regulates the use of pesticides to reduce the amount of toxic substances entering the Great Lakes from storm water runoff. Thus far, GLWO has made inroads with someof the key EPA headquar- ters offices. in fii year 1989, GLWO began working with EPA's Office of Marine and Estuarine Protection and individual estuary programs to support the development of policies and programs that address poIlu- tion problems in the Great Lakes. For example, GLwo is working with the Office of Marine and Estuarine Protection to develop a method to share new technological developments. In fiscal year 1988, GLSFO entered into an agreement with the Office of Research and Develop- ment’s Environmental Research Laboratory in Duluth, Minnesota, to fund research on the Great Lakes at the Laboratory and its Large Lakes Research Station in Grosse Be, Michigan. The Research Station and Lab- oratory are assisting GLmO with its mass balance modei in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sedi- ment Program’ -models for the rerrdval, stabilization, or treatment of toxic sediments. The Green Bay Mass Balance Study will also be used as a tool to develop LVPS. Nevertheless, GISPO recognized that it needed to increase its efforts to involve headquarters offices if it was to succeed in developing the ecosystem approach mandated by the Water Quality Act. As noted above, coordination with EPA headquarters offices, such as the Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, is crucial to addressing pollution problems in the Great Lakes. ‘The Awssment and Remedlatlon of Contaminated ZTedhent Pmjgam stems from the 1987 Water Quality Act requirement for GLTTPOto conduct S-year study and demonstrahm pl-OfXtSOntheCO~ MI of toxic pollutants in sx%ments in the Great Lakes. Page 17 GAo/bBxmm%197 waer PollnIion To assist in this effort, GLNPO established the Great Lakes Advisory Committee in 1989 Yo address policy issues and headquarters level coordination.” In particular, the committee (1) reviews GLNFO'S yearly budget, (2) addresses multimedia policy issues regarding the Great Lakes, and (3) reviews GLNPO'S and headquarters’ activities pertaining to the Great Lakes, including their funding and m&stones. Committee members initiahy included GLNPO'S former Director; Regional AdminiSrators from Regions II, III, and V; and Assistant Administrator from EPA'S Office of Research and Development, Office of International Activities, and Office of Water. GLNPo's Deputy Director stated that these members were invited to the first meeting in March 1989 because they were the most active in implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. He told us, however, that it was important for other offices to participate in subsequent committee deliberations, given their responsibilities for key issues and programs affecting the Great Lakes. He specifically noted that the Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Rer,;ronseshould participate because both offices had expanded their original auties and responsibilities regarding the Great Lakes. In its January 1990 meeting, the Great Lakes Advisory Committee mem- bers determined that to satisfy the requirements of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, more direct participation was needed from aII EPA offices. The Administrator responded to this concern in an April 1990 memorandum, stating that the membership of the committee would be expanded to include all Assistant Administrators and that the EPA Deputy Administrator would be the Chairman- He also requested that each Assistant Administrator review his or her programs and funding policies and, by May 1990, advise the Great Lakes Advisory Committee of the specific contributions their office could make toward a coordinated, multimedia approach to environmental problems in the Great Lakes. In addition, he requested that each office designate a senior-level contact to provide day-today communication with GLKPO. Most of GINO'S contacts with EPA regms have focused on funding EPARe@onal research projects that identify the nature and extent of pollution Involvement Has problems or that seek to develop innovative ways to address such Expanded and problems. GLNFQ established the Great Lakes Coordinating Committee in 1980 to coordinate these activities with the three Great Lakes regions, Improved and to review and recommend proposed research projects to be funded by GLNPO. The committee membership consists of six Division Directors P8ge 18 GAO/-197 Water Pollatkm from Region V, the Director from Region II3 EnvironmentsI Services Division, the Director from Region III’s Water Division, a representative from EPA’S Environmental Research Laboratory (a research offIce used heavily by GLMO), a representative from the office of Marine and Estua- rine Protection, and GLNPO’S Director and Deputy Director. The committee’s funding recommendations have largely been based on how wel! they help the United States meet its commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. According to one member, GLNPO generally follows the committee’s recommendations. The available funds range between $1 million and $5 m.iIIion each year, depending on GLNPO'S appropriations, fixed costs, and congressionally mandated projects, such as the Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediment Program. While the committee was intended to help GLNPO coordinate these activi- ties with all the Great lakes regions, Region V had received most of the funding from GLNPO until recently. The emphasis on Region V reinforced a view withi EPA that GLNW was largely an appendage of Region V, rather than a headquarters office with broader relationships within the agency. In recent years, however, GLNPO has taken :;veral steps to improve coor- dination and cooperation with Regions II and IIL For example, in 1989 the committee recommended and GLNPO appr, fed funding for Region II’s Niagara River Toxic Assessment Program, which screens and quantifies toxic chemicals. The information developed in the program will be helpful in developing an LMPfor Lake Ontario. Region II also received GLNPO funds to set up workshops, reserve meeting rooms, and send out mailings to encourage public involvement in developing LMPS. Before fiscal year 1989, Region III had not received funding from GLNPO, but the Region’s Water Division Director explained, and GLNPCI officials agree, that GISPO funding would be considered unnecessary because of the region’s limited jurisdiction over the Great Lakes-approximately 40 miles of lake Erie’s shoreline. During fiscal year 1989, GINPO tried to transfer funds to Region III to support a study of Presque Isle Bay at Erie, Pennsylvania, which LJC had recommended to be named an area of concern. Because Region III did not have a system in place to transfer funds to a state, GNP0 gave the funds directly to Pennsyivania for the study. However, Region III and GJNQ have been trading research and other information because of Region IIFs involvement with the Chesa- peake Bay, a body of water with somesimilarities to the Great Lakes. P8ge 19 GAODlS7 Watu Pollmioa =Onclusions Quaiity Act, GLNNPOhas taken steps to improve coordination of EPA'S efforts tr, implement the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement GLSPO has invited officials from EPA headquarters and regions to participate in the Great Lakes Advisory Committee, and is developing a comprehen- sive workplan for the Great L&es that would include participation from EPA headquarters and regions as well as from other federal and state agencies. In addition, GLhTO has expanded its relationship in recent years with Regions II and III, helping to change the perception within EPA that it is merely an extension of Region V. Page 20 GAO/HZEDHb191 Water Polhth @er 3 jr&m EPA Iiwolvement Neededin ‘bordinating RemediailAction Plans In addition to requiring GLWO to coordinate EPA'S own work to improve the Great Lakes’ water quality, the Water Quality Act of 1987 required GLWO to coordinate EPA’S programs with those of federal, state, and local agencies in developing specific strategies for improving water quality. GLNHI has taken several steps to meet the act’s requirements. For example, GLWO staff have taken leadership roles in WC,which reviews both the United States’ and Canada’s progress in implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. In September 1989, GLSPOestab lished the U.S. Policy Commi~onsisting of federal agencies, states, and public interest groups-to detzrmine U.S. policy in achieving the objectives of the Agreement. GLYm has also made progress in coordi- nating activities among federal and state agencies to address specific annexes under the Agreement, such as developing inventories of air- borne toxic substances and improving the surveillance and monitoring of the Great Lakes’ water quality. Although progress has been made in meeting many of the Agreement’s objectives, the development of RAPS-a top UCpriority in addressing the Great Lakes’ water quality problems-has fallen far behind schedule. State and local RAPofficials, as well as environmentalists, believe that progress can be made only if GLMQ takes a more active role in devel- oping RAPS.WhiIe GLSPO has augmented its coordinating role somewhat, and is considering further involvement, it maintains that the actual development of these detailed and complex cleanup plans is principally the responsibility of state and local governments and that EPA regions also should play a larger role. LNpO’s Coordination prehensive approach toward cleaning up the Great Lakes and meeting ‘ith Other Agencies the objectives of the Agreement. We stated that GL%TO had been frus- itially Centeredon trated in its attempts to ensure that the United States’ commitments under the Agreement were met because it could not direct the activities c of other federal agencies or states. To help address the problem, we rcc- ommended that GLW coordinate with other federal agencies and states to obtain their views on strategies for improving the lakes’ water quality and solicit their support in implementing those strategies. In an attempt to improve its coordination and visibility, GLPUPObecame involved in LIC’Sactivities, which involve staff from a variety of U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, as well as staff from state and provincial agencies. The Great Lakes National Program Manager served as the United States’ cochairperson on LJC’SWater Quality Board, and the P8ge 21 GAO/RCEWKX197 Water Polhtim former ~uwo Director became the United States’ cochairperson on we’s Water Quality Programs Committee (which reports to the Water Quality Board). GLNFQ'S senior staff also chaired other UC subcommittees. GINO’S former Director, however, became concerned that GLNFQstaff were spending too much time on UC’S activities, particularly as chairper- sons of various committees and subcommittees. She said that even though participation in UC’s activities helped her staff understand initia- tives for the Great Lakes, they did not spend enough time on coordina- tion with other US. federal agencies. GWPO’s Deputy Director agreed, indicating that aa late as 1988, he was spending at least 50 percent of his time as chairman of an LICsubcommittee. Another GLNFQofficial said that he was spending 50 to 60 percent of his time as chairman of another subcommittee and that this participation adversely affected his ability to coordinate the activities of US. agencies. As a result of these concerns, GLNFO staff plan to relinquish their posi- tions as chairpersons, asking staff from EPA regional offices, other U.S. agencies (e.g., the Fish and Wildlife Service), or the Great Lakes states to fill these positions. GLNFO intends to keep its staff involved with LJC’S activities, but not as chairpersons of the committees and subconunittees. 5.Policy committee eral and state agencies and environmental groups, GLKFQ established the sablishedto U.S. Policy Committee, with GLhlQ’s Director as the Chairperson in 1989. prove Interagency The Committee is required to meet twice a year-and more often if the members desire-just before each semiaunual meeting between the xdination United States and Canada to decide what the United States’ position should be on policies and issues regarding the Great Lakes. The Committee met for the first time in September 1989. A wide range of organizations are represented on the committee, including GLNPO; EPA Regions II, III, and V; other federal agencies with responsibility for the Great Lakes (e.g., U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric . . AdmIm.%3 tion); the eight Great Lakes states; public interest groups; and industry. The Committee’s objectives include identifying l key provisions of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement that require the coordinated efforts of more than one agency or program and the steps needed to implement these provisions, Page 33 l situations in which Agreement revisions are not being met becauseof a lack of adequate coordination, and l situations in which one or more organizations did not implement the Agreement because they did not give it sufficient priority. Although the Committee was established by GINO, it represents diverse interests and expertise from a variety of governmental and nongovem- mental organizations. One member of the Policy Committee told us that he was particularly impressed with the caliber of the participants at the September 1989 meeting and that the GLNFO staff has been committed to motivating other federal agencies to make greater commitments in resolving issues regarding the Great Lakes. He added however, that most agencies have limited resources and will therefore not be able to do everything that GLWO suggests. Other members of the U.S. Policy Committee-including state, industry, federal agency, and environmental group members-told us that although GLSPO organized the Committee, it operates independently of GI h’poand can make important policy decisions without undue pressure or influence from the Office. Furthermore, these members noted that while GLMO'S Director presently chairs the Committee, nothing pre eludes a member from another agency from becoming the Committee’s chairperson in the future. Improved coordination and cooperation between GLKPO and states and JPOHas other federal agencies have resulted in progress in implementing many rdinated With of the Agreement’s annexes. However, implementation of the most es and Other importa& and difficult annex, calling for the development of RAPSand LAWS,has been delayed for years. ncies in lementing Implementing the annexes often requires actions by one or more federal agencies or states. GLNPO, as the lead federal office in ensuring that the lexes,but Key United States fulfills the terms of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agree ~~AreEkhind ment, including the annexes, must rely on cooperation from states and zdule from other agencies because it is not funded to directly implement the Agreement and does not have the resources to accomplish the objectives on its own. In 1989, GLNFO began developing a workplan listing (1) cur- rent EPA regional programs that address each annex of the Agreement and (2) WA regional offices that should assist GLNFO in implementing these programs. GLNPO plans to expand the workplan in 1990 to include all federal, state, and local agencies that also should provide assistance. Page 23 GAO/RCXD~197 WW Pdlntien Fifteen of the 17 annexes address specific functional topics, such as the control of phosphorus going into the Great Lakes, the surveillance and monitoring of the Great Lakes’ water quality, and pollution from con- taminated groundwater. The other two annexes call for the development of (1) specific objectives regarding water quality (e.g., which pollutants should be regulated and what their allowable limits should be) and (2) RAPSand LVPS.GINO has been coordinating with states and with other federal agencies to implement the objectives of the annexes. To illustrate: l Annex 3 (control of phosphorus). and the Department of Agricul- GLSPO ture’s Soil Conservation Service jointly developed and implemented a series of demonstration projects to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the Great Lakes. l Annex 7 (dredging). ~LSPOhas been helping LJCmaintain a register of dredging projects, as required by the annex, and uses information pro- vided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to update its register. . Annex i 1 (surveillance and monitoring). GLWO has cooperated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the states to monitor the quality of open lake and coastal waters. GLWO also has an agree.nent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fiih and Wildlife Service to do joint field monitoring with EPA for the Green Bay Mass Balance Study. Annex 14 (contaminated sediment). GLNPO has begun to determine l methods for assessing and reducing contaminated sediment. GLSPO has an interagency agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Kational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S.Fiih and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Mines to plan a demonstration program. GLXPO also has an agreement with five states and several uni- versities to help plan and design the program. Annex 15 (airborne toxic substances). GWFO has an agreement with the l governors of all eight Great Lakes states to help develop emission inven- tory procedures for toxic emissions. As part of this effort, GLVO has built five monitoring stations and plans to build 12 more by 1993. Annex 16 (pollution from contaminated groundwater). l has GLWO worked with the U.S. Geological Survey to study the effects of cmntami- nated groundwater ONthe Great Lakes. opment of RAPS One of the most important annexes in eliminating persistent toxic sub- stances in the Great Lakes is annex 2. the development of RAPS.These ; to Be Better plans are intended to develop systematic and comprehensive approaches inated to restoring the water quality of particularly polluted areas. For P8gt 24 GAO/fKXB~l97 Wawr Pollution - example, 41 of thz 42 aress of concern in the Great Lakes Basin have seriously conmated sediment.* To illustrate, the sediment in one area contains about 1.1 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyl (pcBr pc8 isaknowniiumancarcin ogen and can damage the liver and repro&c- tive and nervous systems. A RAPis a systematic and comprehensive approach to ichentify speclflc actions necessary to control existing sources of pollution, abate envlron- mental contamination already present, and restore beneficial uses of the waters located in a particular area of concern. It calls for all agencies, communities, and programs corcemed with an area to work together on common goals and objectives to ensure the successful implementation of all pollution control efforts. The development of RAPSrequires coordination and cooperation among state and local officials, industry representatives, and local citizens. However, progress in developing RAPShas been slow, particularly in comparison with the progress made on other annexes. Some RAYSare years behind schedule. For example, the Milwaukee Harbor RAF,once planned for completion by 1987, is now scheduled to be completed in January 1991. According to WC,one reason for the delays is that all the federal, state, local, and private organizations involved have not reached agreement on their appropriate roles and responsibilities. In addition, WCdetermined that six of the first eight RAPS submitted for review were inadequate and needed to be revised. One problem cited by IJCwas inadequate information on the impacts of various pollution sources on the Great Lakes’ water quality. The delay in developing RAPShas prompted congressional concern. During the summer of 1989, congressional field hearings in Michigan and Wisconsin focused on the need for more progress and increased fed- eral involvement in developing RAPS.ln September 1989, legislation was introduced in the United States Senate (S. 1646, Great lakes Critical Programs Act) requiring GL.wo to ensure that the Great Lakes states develop and incorporate RAPSinto their water qua&y plans by January 1,1993. The legislation would require that once the MP has been included in its water quality plan, the state would becomeeligible for WA funding to help implement the RAP.It was then included in another bill (S. 1178, Marine Protection Act of 19891,which was reported out of the Committee in June 1999 and was placed on the Senate legislative calendar. **figurel.! forthelocaa~ofthe42area5of-m. Page 25 GAo/xfcEDm197 w8ter Peuutloil _-- _-- _I - _... .- _/ .- In March 1999, similar legislation was introduced in the House of Repre- sentatives (H.R. 4323, Great Lakes Water Quality Improvement Act of 1990). in April, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources, Committee on Public Works and Transportation, which then held hear- ings in May. Disagreement Exists Over To deal with the problem, environmentalists and some state and local officials engaged in developing RAPSand environmentalists have asked GLNPO’s Role in GLSPOto get more involved in completing the plans. An official from one Developing RAPS state, for example, toJd us that GINO should provide technical and orga- nizational expertise, actively participate in citizen committees, and act as a clearinghouse for transferring pertinent information on developing RAPSfrom state to state. Other states expressed a desire for GLNPO to provide more funds for their work in developing RAPS. One environmental group, in testimony at Senate field hearings, stated that while most RAPS adequately describe and define problems, they fail their ultimate purpose-to evaluate current remedial programs and pro- pose and evaluate additional cleanup programs. The group stated that while GLNFCI has provided some help in developing RAPS,it has not devoted sufficient time and resources to ensure that they are as thor- ough and extensive as they should be. It stated that most RAPSmerely recommend more studies or additional testing and sampling, rather than delineating re-medial actions. The group also stated that GLMO has not been aggressive in insisting that citizens participate early in the develop ment of RAPS. GLWO officials maintain that the Office has done what can be reakti- tally expected, given a staff of only 33 and the liited financial resources it can devote to developing RAP%GUiPO has given some funds to EPA regions and states for developing RAPS,prepared guidance for RAPS, and reviewed and commented on completed RAPS. It has also com- pleted a mqjor study on the Great Lakes that provides data that shouid aid in developing RAPS,working with the U.S. Fiih and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Xational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Detroit, and the state of Michigan. GLSPO officials indicated to us that the Office has recently augmented its role in developing RAPSto some extent and is assessing whether further involvement is warranted. GLmo's Deputy Director told us, for example, that GLNPO funded seven positions in Regions II and V in fiscal year 1989 Page 26 GAO,AtCEMWlS? Wats -II - Gn=axer EPA Invdvemnt !icded in Cmxdinating Rrmdid Action PLUW to help develop IL\PS.The former Director said that the four additional staff hired in fi%?ul year 1990 ~111 assist states in developing RAF-S and LMIX Another c:t.X111) official suggested that GLSPO may become more involved in developing HAPSin areas that border both the United States and Canada because the development of these UPS requires individuals that can represent the federal government rather than an individual state. lie said that ~I.MV)would need two additional staff for this work and additional funds for the states and ~5.4 regions. Still. GL~I'U officials maintain that there are limits to what the Office can do to speed the development of KM%beyond providing basic guidance and technical assistance. Devek>ping a ~i’is a major undertaking, and each requires coordination among many federal. state. and local agen- cies. and the incorporation of views from industry and private citizens. Moreover. (;ISIYJ must also fulfill responsibilities for other annexes of the Agreement. U’hile they acknowledge a role in helping to develop FLU%.cIl.\fq) officials maintain that this task is primarily a state and local responsibility. They explain that the states are responsible for imple- menting pollution control programs and that cars often involve issues that are typically not dealt with at the federal level. such as zoning, farming practices. snd other land use issues. In addition. in Februav 1990 the Great Lakes Sational Program Man- ager wrote to the t hrce EPAGreat Lakes regions. stating they should assist the states in developing and implementing ~41% and asking lhem to determine what additional resources they would need to help state and local officials develop 1~1s. Region V’s Water Division requested and received t~vo additional staff from GLWO and another three from Region V to assist the states in developing and implementing RAPS. Region I! agreed that the regions should help states develop and imple- ment K&f5and that it would need two or three additional staff and sig- nificant funding. Region II recommended that primary funding for KMY come from the states and that (XWOsupplement the funding a.. necessary. Thus. some disagreement exists over the appropriate ro!e of GLUU and other organizations in developing ILAPS. GLSFQ believes that state and local agencies primarily should be responsible for developing and imple- menting u-\rs and that EM regional offices should play a larger role. It maintains that because of its small size and limited resources, its role in developing K4Psin numerous areas of concern is limited. In contrast, states and environmentalists want GLSPO to make a larger commitment because of its expertise and ecosystem perspective. Page 27 GAO/BcED90197 water Pounti - We believe that since the development of k~ps is important to the cleanup of the Great Lakes---and since so little progress has been made in achieving this objective-this policy issue needs to be resolved. The newly formed US. Policy Committee, which involves representation - from numerous interested parties and was established to make po!icy recommendations on how the United States can best address the Agree ment, is umquely situated to help resolve this policy issue. Indeed, some officials from GLNPO and other agenciestold us that such a role would be particularly appropriate for this Committee, given its diverse composi- tion and strong credibility. Lakewide Management Annex 2 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement also calls for the development of LMPSfor each of the Great Lakes. Whereas m focus on Plans Not Developed specific near-shore areas, LMPSfocus on reducing or eliminating the worst pollutants in the Great Lakes’ open lake waters so that beneficial uses are restored. LMPSare intended to ensure that pollutants are not increased in any areas of the lakes. Annex 2 requires comprehensive plans addressing such items as . the threat that certain pollutants pose to human health or aquatic life, . the estimated amount of pollutants each source contributes, l remedial measures that are needed to restore the beneficial uses of the lakes, and . a process for evaluating remedial implementation and effectiveness. Although GLNPO has been involved with studies that may serve as a foundation for ~%%pzs (particularly for Lakes Michigan and Ontario). LIZPS have not yet been developed. In t&t, the development of LMPSis behind the development of f~k~s,with basic decisions still to be made on how the development of each plan will proceed. For example, IJChas called for a precise definition of LMPSand procedures for tracking their pro- gress. In Senate hearings in April 1989, EPA stated that the Lake Micb- igan LVP would be completed by JuIy 1990. However, in June 1990 hearings, EPA'S Deputy Administrator stated that the target date for the initial draft of the Lake Michigan LMPis in the first quarter of fiscal year 1992. GLIFO officials point out that LMpsare more complex to develop than RAPSbecause, generally, several jurisdictions and agencies are involved. The U.S. Policy Committee has made some progress in moving LVP~ for- ward. For example, it submitted a policy framework for the United States and published standards for identifying substances that can Page33 GA0/RCED9&197W8terPoUutiw -3 GrrrtcrEPAlU tmb-ement Nmkd b colmunatingKemcdLLAcdonRrar potentially affect the Great Lakes (an objective of annex 1 of the Agree- ment that is crucial to deveioping LHPS). Nevertheless, according to the Director of EPA'S Environmental Research Laboratory, LMPSare not fea- sible now because the technology necessary to deal with difficult issues-such as how to assessthe amount of pollutants being added to the open waters of the Great Lakes or how to reduce the pollutant loads to acceptable levels-has not yet been developed. The Director said that models for LMPSwill be developed one at a time and each will take about 2 years to develop. He noted that this approach will permit subsequent plans to benefit from lessons learned on earlier plans. GLzr~0’sformer Director told us that initial plans would use avwlable information and then be modified as new information becomesavailable and new tech- nology evolves. The Water Quality Act of 1987 requires EPA to submit an annual report Improvement in to the Congress that, in part, Gathering Information From Federal l describes the achievements during the previous fscal year in imple menting the Great Lakes Water Quality .4greement, Agencies for identifies amounts spent on initiatives to improve the Great Lakes’ AnnualReport l water quality, . describes long-term prospects for improving the condition of the Great Lakes, and . provides a comprehensive assessmentof efforts planned to improve the condition of the Great Lakes, including the programs administered by other federal agencies. This is the only document that reports to the Congress on the progress the United States has made in implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. As such, it is essential for congressional oversight, and for informing the public at large about how the lMed States is fulfilling this obligation. EPA has delegated this reporting responsibility tOGIX=O. To assist GLSPO in this effort, the act also requires each federal agency with any responsibility involving the environmental quality or natural resources of the Great Lakes to submit an annual report to GLSPO describing how its activities affect compliance with the Agreement. Spe cifically named in the legislation were the U.S. Army Corps of Engi- neers, the Soil Conservation Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Kational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Page29 - -3 Gmter l2P.4hdvement Needed in -w%wdtrl ‘4ctl0a Plam The legislation required the first report, covering fiscal year 1988, to be completed by December 31, 1988. However, EPA did not issue the report until April 1990. The responsible GLWI official explained that the infor- mation provided by the other federal agencies was late and often lacked detailed information on the progress made in implementing the Agree- ment. He said that the other federal agencies did not give this effort a high priority and claimed they were not sure what data GLSPO wanted- GLFPO clarified its guidance for the report covering fiscal year 1989. For example, in early September 1989 ~lsm sent each agency a computer disk programmed and formatted to better describe the information it wanted. The form asked for information, by program or by project. on expenditures in fiscal year 1989 and expenditures planned for fiscal year 1990 in categories such as enforcement, research, remediation/mit- igatlon, and general administration. The form also requested a list of mqjor achievements during fiscal year 1989. GLSPO asked for a response by October 1, 1989. Although not every agency met the deadline. the GLWO official noted that the agencies responded much faster than they had for the 1988 report. GLWO’S efforts to implement the Water Quality Act of 1987 have Conclusions resulted in improved coordination with federal and state agencies having a role in implementing the Great bakes Water Quality Agree- ment. These efforts, including the establishment of the 1J.S.Policy Com- mittee, have addressed many of the coordination problems cited in our 1982 report. The key annex to the Agreement, however, which addresses the remediation of the most polluted areas in the Great Lakes through the development of RAPSand LIIPS. has not been adequately addressed. Uncertainties about GLWO'S role in addressing this annex-particularly questions about how its mission relates to that of EPA regions, states, and local governments in coordinating and/or developing m-have been a point of controversy and the development of RAF% has suffered as a result. We believe that the newly formed U.S. Policy Committee, charged with identifying situations in which the Agreement is not being fulfiiled because of a lack of coordination or of sufficient priority, could play a constructive role in speeding up the development of RXPSby identifying the appropriate roles and responsibilities for GLSPO and other organiza- tions in meeting the requirements of this important annex. P8ge 30 GAO/BCELbS137 Water PoUutiom Greater WA lmdvement Needed ln mu- ActionPlaM To improve interagency coordination in dealing with the pollution ecommendation problems of the Great Lakes, and in particular to speed progress on t!?e development of Remedial Action Plans and Lakewide Management Plans, GAO recommends that the EPA Adminktrator request that the US. Policy Committee assess, identify, and recommend appropriate roles and responsibilities for the Great Lakes National Program Office and other organizations in developing thex plans. P&#? 31 Chapter 4 GLNFO in Perspective: Cleaning Up the Great Lakes Will Be Costly and Will Take Decades The effect of years of pollution in the Great Lakes camrot be overcome without massive research, cleanup efforts. and financial investment. Improvements in GLSPO’s efforts to coordinate t!re United States’ imple mentation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement will help, but are only a small part of the overall effort that would be needed. Even the development of Rws and t&n%-which have proven to be an extremely difficult task for public officials and other concerned parties in the region-are just initial steps to plan the cleanup. Carrying out the plans will take decades, cost billions. and require improved pollution control programs by ~p.r\and other agencies. Concern about the potential human health effects of toxic chemicals Restoring the Great found in the Great Lakes has increased, as growing evidence has linked Lakes’ Water Quality these contaminants with tumors in fish. genetic defects in fish-eating Is a Monumental Task birds, and reproductive disorders in lower organisms. Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin. Illinois, and Sew York have all issued health advisories to people who eat fish from the Great Lakes because they are the main source of human exposure to PCBS.dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane ( DDT). mercury. and other toxic contaminants. The health advisory from Sew York, for example, indicated that a meal of f&h from Lake Ontario could deliver a toxic dose equal to a lifetime of drinking water from that lake. Cleaning up the Great Lakes not only will require efficient coordination but also will take substantial funding and time and considerable tech- nical knowledge. According to a report by the Northeast-Midwest Insti- tute (which provides information and analyses on natural resource issues and other issues affecting the Northeastern and Upper Hid- western states), the U.S. government spent approximately $9.4 billion between 1980 and 1989 to implement the Agreement.’ Actrvities funded include the construction of sewage treatment plants, the protection of groundwater and wetlands, the monitoring and ana1ys.sof water quality, the development of models for targeting control of toxic sub- stances. the demonstration of technologies for remediating contaminated sediments, the development of standards for evaluating contaminated sediment, the evaluation of cleanup technologies, and the coordination of research. Page 32 GAO/scEDsOIsI Water Pollution chapter I GLNPO in Pempmivc: Cleaning Up the LakesWIllBeCosUymdWillTakeLkades Great Even efforts of this magnitude represent limited progress. As the Director of EPA'S Environmental Research Laboratory noted. polluting the Great Lakes took over 100 years; consequently, their cleanup will also take many years. For some cleanup tasks, such as implementing LMPSand remediating toxic sediment, the technical solutions have yet to be developed. Furthermore. while precise estimates of the eventual total cost of cleaning up the Great Lakes are unavailable, indications are that it will cost many more billions of dollars. Estimates for implementing M illustrate the magnitude of the problem. We reported in August 1988 that it will cost at least $1.8 bil- lion to bring Michigan’s Rouge River, one of the region’s 42 areas of con- cern. up to the state’s public health standards by the year 2005, as planned in the area’s RAP. Addressing concerns about the Great Lakes’ water quality involves sub- vernment Program stantially more than remediating the pollution problems already present ed to Limit Toxic in the lakes, such as toxic sediments. As is the case with other bodies of xharges More water, a central element of any effort to “clean up” the Great Lakes involves reducing the rate at which toxic substances enter the lakes kctively either directly or through tributaries such as the Rouge River. However, as several recent GAO reports have demonstrated, the government’s efforts to limit toxic discharges from both point sources (i.e., pollution sources for which a specific point of discharge can be identified) and nonpoint sources of pollution will need to improve substantially if the Great Lakes’ water quality is to be restored. bgramsto Control Point The Sational Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDEYS) Program, established under the Clean Water Act, is the principal tool EPA and the tree Pollution Do Not states use to control water pollution from point sources. Under the pro ninate Many Toxic gram, facilities that discharge pollutants directly into a body of water charges have permits that generally specify the entities allowed to discharge pollutants. the types and amounts of pollutants that can be discharged, the conditions under which the discharge is permitted, and the location of the discharge. Even if these facilities always met permit require merits, they would still pollute the waters: SPDES permits do not prevent water pollution; they only limit it. fective Pretreatment of AS our past work and EPA data have documented, industrial facilities &rialWastesHasEkena that discharge pollutants directly into bodies of water, such as the Great icuiarly Serious Problem Lakes, have sometimes violated permit limits. However, our April 1989 Page 33 GAO/RCED@S197 Water Pohtion evaluation of EPA’S National Pretreatment Program found that industrial facilities that discharge their water indirectly into bodies of water (i.e.. facilities whose pollutants go into sewer systems that feed into waste water treatment plants) are a particularly serious problem.’ Many of these industrial facilities have wastewater that contains particularly large quantities of toxic metals and organic chemicals. The treatment plants, in turn, discharge this wastewater directly into receiving waters-such as the Great Lakes. Because the treatment plants cannot cleanse many of the toxic pollu- tants released into the wastestream, the Xational Pretreatment Program requires these industrial facilities to c!eanse,or “pretreat,” the waste- water before it enters the sewer system. However, our April 1989 anal- ysis found that many industrial facilities did not comply with discharge limits under the program. ’ Because of such violations, untreated toxic pollutants end up in lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. The same report made a number of recommendations to improve enforcement against violators of these and other program requirements. While the effectiveness of industrial pretreatment is a national concern, it is of particular importance in heavily industrial areas of the country, such as the Great Lakes states, where mimerous industrial facilities dis- charge toxic wastes into municipal sewer systems. As documented in our 1988 Rouge River report, De+.roithas a particularly large number of industries that discharge wastes into its sewer system and has had great difficulty controlling these toxic wastes through an effective pretreat- ment program. hnbined Sewer Overflows Compounding this problem for many cities like Detroit, these ineffec- Compound the Problem tively pretreated toxic wastes may feed into &ystems where wastewaters and stormwaters combine. Such combined sewer systems are a partic- ular problem for several cities in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. They were intended to overflow intermittently during periods of heavy rain, when the amount of wastewater exceedspipe capacity. In many cases, however, these systems overflow more frequently and more extensively because the sewers were not adequately enlarged to accom- modate the increased wastewater that has resulted from population ?dONtDNIg and Enforcement kded for Toxw I%Uutants EInte- 30n the basis of a sample of 502 treatment plants selectsA randomly from the appmxunately I ,500 plants parucipatmg U-Ithe program. we found that about 41 percent of the plants industnal de chargers exceeded one or more applicable dlseharge limits &mng the 12-month period examined. Page 34 GAO/EcED90197 Water Pollotion chapter 4 GLNPO ln Perapecdvc: Cleani~ Up the Great Ides Will Ek Gw.IY and WU Take Kkades growth. In addition. urban construction on previously open giound has increased unabsorbed rainwater. As a result. frequent overflows may send heavily polluted water directly into bodies of water. Combined sewer overflows are a particularly serious problem along the Rouge River. According to a 1987 Southeast Michigan Council of Gov- ernments study. virtually all of the following toxic substances-arsenic, chromium, mercury. and r--and 71 percent of the nickel and 67 per- cent of the cadmium entering the Rouge River originate from combined sewer overflows. While state regulators and local officials are planning strategies to deal with this problem. effective solutions are many years away. ltion From Nonpoint Alth JUgh there are gaps in the regulation of point sources of water pal- luti in, no controls exist at all for many toxic “nonpoint” sources of pol- ces Is Largely !ut,on. Point sources, such as manufacturing plants. are visible, discrete, mtrolled ant easily identifiable. However, pollution from nonpoint sources (such as runoff of pesticides and fertilizer from farms or runoff from streets in urban areas) is diffuse ard often hard to trace to its place of origin. Such pollution sources cannot be regulated through permits limiting end- of-the-pipe discharges. Rather, they result from past and present land use habits that reflect the way farming, mining, timber harvesting, and other economic activities are conducted. To cope with the pollution of the Great Lakes from nonpoint sources, GLSFQhas worked with EPA offices and several other agencies to support surveys to better understand the problem. For example. it funded a pro- ject by the Ohio State University Extension Service to survey land- owners’ and operators’ pesticide use in Ohio’s Lake Erie drainage basin. GLSPOhas also funded projects demonstrating environmentally sound land use practices and other institutional arrangements to prevent the problem. While these projects are sound beginnings, considerably more effort will be needed to resolve the problem of the Great Lakes’ nonpoint sources. For example, agricultural contamination, the single largest source of nonpoint source pollution nationwide and a major contributor of the pol- lution in the Great Lakes, is promoted by farming methods that rely heavily on the use of pesticides and other chemicals. Such practices have been reinforced for many years by federal agricultural programs that have traditionally emphasized production while paying little heed to water quality goals. While the Department of Agriculture has recently Page 35 GAO/ESXB9&197 Water PoUution -4 GLNPO trPmqwcthe Cl- L&e~WUlBeCodyaadWillTakeDeada Up the Gmt taken steps to better integrate concerns about water quality into its pr* grams, the fundamental reorientation of existing farm programs and practices that wi!l be needed to deal effectively with the problem will require a strong political commitment and many years of effort.’ Under the best of circumstances, cleaning up the Great Lakes will still mchsions be extremely costly and w!!! take well into the next century. GLWO can play an important role toward this end by helping to coordinate the efforts of organizations at all levels of government and by providing direct technical support in certain instances. However, GLWO’S potential contribution should be evaluated in the context of the enormous task at hand. !3eal!stica!!y, success in cleaning up the Great Lakes will depend much more heavily on the level of commitment and resources the nation and the Great Lakes region are willing to devote to the effort, the pros- pects for resolving formidable technica! challenges currently impeding the cleanup of the Great Lakes, and the ability of federal and state regu- lators to improve programs to limit the release of toxic discharges into the lakes. ~GAOplaratoaWressfhisisJueinarorherreponThcreportwillahofocusonEPAandstate effotts to amtrol other nonpoint sources ofwaterpollution.hon~theothrnonpointpohti0n -thatwlubeadmpssed areminingtimberharvexing,anduhanrunoff. BLANK PAGE Pye 37 dix I NPO OrganizationalChart akes Natlonal Program Office Organizational Chart u Manager Semor Advcser (Program Analyst) Deputy Dlrector urvelllance d Research Staff I Page 38 Appendix II FederalAgencies.With Key Rolesin the Cleanup of the Great Lakes National Atmospheric and The Sational Atmospheric and Oceanic Admmistration (SOA+) conducts environmental research. manages resources, and provides environ- Oceanic Administration mental services in coasta! and estuarine waters. including the Great Lakes. Much of SOM’S w?orkpertaining to the Great Lakes is done by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. SCM nms the Sea Grant Program, and SO%L~‘s Sationai Weather Service monitors the weather and climate. ‘J.S. Army Corps of The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains navigation channels in the Great Lakes and their tributaries. The Corps dredges, disposes of Engineers dredged material. and manages water levels. It plays an important role in managing contaminated sediment in the Great Lakes. U.S. Fish and Wildlife The C.S. Fish and Wildlife Semite focuses on habitat and contamination issues relevant to the protection and enhancement of wetlands, fresh Service water fisheries, and wildlife populations. It collects data for national inventories of vcetlands and waterfowl populations. It also operates the National Fisheries Research Center-Great Lakes, which assesses,pro- tects, and rehabilitates fish resources and habitats in the Great Lakes. U.S. Department of Three offices in the U.S. Department of Agriculture are involved with the Great Lakes. The Soil Conservation Service works with states and Agriculture farmers to prevent erosion and improve water quality. The Cooperative Extension Service and the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service deliver financial. technical. and information services to farmers. U.S. Coast Guard The C.S. Coast Guard helps clean up spills of pollutants, encourages measures to prevent such spills. controls shipping, enforces the prohibi- tion of waste discharges from ships into the Great Lakes. and enforces laws regarding the handling and transfer of hazardous substances and oil on the lakes. ,’ U.S. Geological Survey The U.S. Geological Survey conducts several activities concerning the Great Lakes and their tributaries. For example, it analyzes water flow, monitors water quality, and studies surface water and groundwater. It also provides technical leadership on major issues, such as the effects of contaminated gi oundwater on the quality of the Great Lakes’ surface water. Page 39 GAO/BWIW Water Pollnan Appendix III Major Contributors to This Report Keswrces, Steven L Elstein. Assistant Director Community, and Economic Development Division, Washington, D.C. Anthony A. Krukowski, Regional %nagement Representative Detroit Regional Office Robert R. Readler. Evaluator-inCharge Suzanne S. McGillen, Evaluator Sarah H. Colson, Summer Intern Page 40 GAO/RCELbSSlS7 W8ter PoUntioo (06c(bo
Water Pollution: Improved Coordination Needed to Clean Up the Great Lakes
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-28.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)