GAO Ikport to ttw Cl~airrnan, Sulmmcunittett~: on Govwnnwnt InI’orrnation, ,Justicc, and Agriculture, Chnrnit~tee on Government, Operations, House of’ IZepntsont,atives ._“. ._.. _-..-..- “---.__-._“.“-._--“------ HAZARDOUS WASTE Efforts to Address Problems at Federal Prisons 3 HI Illllllllllll 142562 RESTRICTED-- Not to be d&&&&&e the General Accounting Oll’ice unless specifically approved by the Office of Congressional Bf?htiOIUL ..I..._.. .._ .._...-.. l.l ...” _._l_l ._.....--_ ---.--- United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-240638 August 30,199O The Honorable Robert E. Wise, Jr. Chairman, Subcommitteeon Government Information, Justice, and Agriculture Committee on GovernmentOperations Houseof Representatives Dear Mr. Chairman: On January 24, 1990,your office asked us to provide information on actions taken by the Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice, to resolve weaknessesin managing hazardousmaterials and wastes. Spe- cifically, this report provides information on the Bureau’s (1) assess- ment and cleanup of prison dump sites containing hazardouswastes and (2) other hazardousmaterial and waste projects, including removal and/ or abatement of asbestosand Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PUBS) from prison facilities. As requestedby your office, this report also provides information on the scopeand status of an audit, performed by Justice’s Office of the Inspector General,of the Bureau’s handling of hazardous materials currently used and hazardouswastes currently generatedat its facilities. Between October 1,1986, and June 28,1990, the Bureau obligated about Results in Brief $167,000to assessthe extent of contamination at its waste disposal sites and to provide information neededfor cleanup actions. Thesefunds were obligated for assessmentsat four of the sevenfacilities previously identified as containing hazardouswaste dump sites. Although the Bureau has set aside about $16 million for cleanup that may be needed, this work will not begin until the Bureau completesits assessmentsat the sevenfacilities. Bureau officials acknowledgethat the delays the Bureau has experiencedin awarding assessmentcontracts could causeit to miss its scheduledcleanup completion date of September30, 1992, by a year or more. Between October 1, 1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau obligated about $6.7 million for other hazardousmaterial and waste projects, primarily for asbestosremoval and/or abatement activities. According to Bureau officials, the asbestosand PCBS that created potential health risks to Bureau inmates and staff have been removed and/or abated. However, these officials told us that as older Bureau facilities are renovated in the future, additional asbestosabatement and removal may be necessary. Page 1 GAO/RCED-90-212 Hazardous Waste at Federal Prisons 5240528 Officials at the Office of the Inspector Generaltold us, however, that their recent audit of the Bureau’s handling of hazardousmaterials and wastes revealed that the Bureau is not fully complying with certain applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)regu- lations and Bureau policies and procedures,Theseofficials told us that although the casesof noncomplianceessentially involve informational and record-keepingrequirements, this noncompliancerepresentsa weaknessin the Bureau’s internal control system, which could adversely affect its ability to properly managehazardousmaterials and wastes. These findings and a number of recommendationsto improve the Bureau’s handling of hazardous materials and wastes will be presented in the Inspector General’saudit report, which is scheduledfor release during the summer of 1990. Background The Bureau of Prisons was establishedto fulfill the federal govern- ment’s responsibility for taking custody and care of prisoners charged with or convicted of violating federal laws. Currently, the Bureau has 6 regional offices and 64 penal institutions nationwide that house about 66,000 prisoners. Since 1934, federal prisoners have beenemployed in prison factories to produce goodsand servicesthat are sold to other federal agencies. Examples of goodsproduced include furniture, clothing, mattresses, towels, brushes, electronics, and signs.Examples of servicesinclude data entry and furniture refinishing. In the past, many prison factory by-products, such as solvents, thinners, and paint, were discarded in dumps on Bureau lands. Further, many Bureau facilities contain asbestospipe insulation and electric equipment that contain PCBS. Becauseof the serious environmental and health risks associatedwith asbestos,PCBS, and hazardouswastes, these materials and wastes must be handled and, if necessary,dump sites cleanedup, in accordancewith federal and state requirements established by laws enactedin the 1970sand early 1980s. In its fiscal year 1987 report on internal controls, the Bureau stated that it would addresspotentially hazardousconditions that were revealed at its facilities by several internal reviews. Specifically, the reviews, com- pleted since fiscal year 1986, revealed that several Bureau institutions contained potentially hazardouswaste disposal sites and/or asbestos and FCBS that required cleanup, removal and/or abatement.According to Page 2 GAO/RCED-90-212 Hazardous Waste at Federal Prisons the fiscal year 1987 report, the hazardousconditions could endangerthe health and safety of prison staff and inmates. In responseto these findings, the Bureau beganconducting assessments and developing action plans to confirm the extent of the hazardous con- ditions and to identify the actions neededto correct them. In addition, the Bureau requestedJustice’s Office of the Inspector Generalto con- duct a nationwide audit to determine if the Bureau is handling haz- ardous materials and wastes in compliancewith OSHA regulations and Bureau policies and procedures. In fiscal year 1987,the Bureau established a program to assessand Actions to Address clean up hazardouswastes at its dump sites. The assessmentswould Problems at Dump involve taking groundwater and soil samplesfrom sites previously iden- Sites tified as containing hazardouswastes and then analyzing them to con- firm the extent of the hazardousconditions and to provide information neededfor cleanup actions. The Bureau established a targeted cleanup completion date of September30,1992, for its program. BetweenOctober 1,1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau obligated $166,693 for assessmentsat four of the sevenfacilities previously iden- tified as containing hazardouswaste dump sites. Of this amount, $96,649 was obligated for taking and analyzing groundwater and soil samplesat three facilities and the remaining $60,044 was obligated for preparatory work neededat the fourth facility before assessmentwork could begin, According to Bureau officials, pending Environmental Pro- tection Agency agreement,further assessmentsmay not be neededat a fifth facility becauseinitial surveys revealed relatively low levels of hazardouswastes. No assessmentshave started at the remaining two facilities. Bureau officials stated that major new construction projects and staff turnover have causeddelays in the assessments.For example, all assessmentcontracts have not been awarded despite original plans for them to be awarded by September30, 1989. According to these offi- cials, the remaining contracts should be awarded by early November 1990. Although the Bureau has set aside $16,020,000for cleanup, it will not begin this work until the assessmentshave beencompleted.According to Bureau officials, the delays in the assessmentsmight causethe Bureau to miss its scheduledcleanup completion date of September30, 1992,by a year or more. Bureau officials also told us that the Bureau will con- tinue to monitor the dump sites after the cleanup has beencompleted. Page 3 GAO/RCEJBO-212 Hazardous Waste at Federal Prisons B.240638 Other Hazardous PCB Between October 1,1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau obligated PCBS $6,692,962for asbestosand abatement and removal activities. Of Materials and Waste this amount, $6,398,066was obligated for asbestosabatement,removal, PCBs Projects and training activities at most of the Bureau’s facilities. The remaining $294,896 was obligated for removing from sevenfacilities. According to Bureau officials, in fiscal year 1990,the remaining asbestosand that posedhealth risks to staff and inmates were removed and/or abated. However, these officials told us that as older Bureau facilities are renovated in the future, additional abatement and removal may be necessary. BetweenOctober 1, 1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau also obligated $38,447 for four other miscellaneoushazardouswaste projects. Of this amount, $20,913 was obligated for removing old chemicals,batteries, and other contaminants stored at two of its facilities. The remaining $17,634 was obligated for constructing short-term storage areas at two other facilities for currently generatedhazardouswastes. The Office of Inspector Generalrecently completed an audit of the Office of the Inspector OSHA Bureau’s handling of hazardousmaterials currently used and hazardous General’s Hazardous wastes currently generatedat Bureau facilities. According to officials Materials and Waste with the Office of the Inspector General,the audit evaluated the Bureau’s compliancewith applicable regulations and Bureau poli- Audit cies and procedures.In addition, the audit was performed to identify potential improvements in the Bureau’s policies and proceduresfor managing and handling hazardousmaterials and wastes. The audit was conducted at the Bureau’s central office and at four penal institutions in four regions. with OSHA According to the Regional Inspector General and the Auditor-in-Charge of the review, the audit revealed several instancesof noncompliance regulations and Bureau policies and procedures.According to these officials, although the casesof noncomplianceprimarily involved informational and record-keepingrequirements, this noncompliancerep- resents a weaknessin the Bureau’s internal controls and could adversely affect its ability to properly managehazardousmaterials and wastes. The audit report is scheduledto be releasedin the summer of 1990 and will contain a number of recommendationsto overcomethese compli- anceproblems and improve the Bureau’s handling of hazardousmater- ials and wastes. Page 4 GAO/RCED-90-212 Hazardous Waste at Federal Prisons B240628 To obtain information on the Bureau’s handling of hazardousmaterials and wastes, we spoke with and obtained documentsfrom officials on the Department of Justice’s Managementand Planning Staff and with the Bureau of Prisons’ Department of Safety and Office of Facilities Devel- opment and Operations.Somedata, such as the obligation figures, were basedon Bureau documentsand were adjusted as a result of our discus- sions with Bureau officials. As requestedby your office, we did not independently verify the accuracy of agencydocumentsor statements provided to us. To determine the scopeand status of the Inspector Gen- eral’s audit of the Bureau’s compliancewith hazardousmaterial and waste regulations and procedures,we spoke with and obtained docu- ments from headquarters and field officials with the Office of the Inspector General. We conductedour review between February and June 1990.As requested,we did not obtain official agencycommentson this report. However, we discussedthe contents of this report with officials of the Bureau and Justice’s Office of the Inspector General,who generally agreedwith the facts as presented. Unless you publicly announceits contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will make copiesavailable to the Attorney General, Department of Justice; the Director, Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice; the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; the Director, Office of Managementand Budget; and other interested parties. If you have any questions about this report, pleasecontact me on (202) 276-6111.Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix II. Sincerely yours, Richard L. Hembra Director, Environmental Protection Issues Page 6 GAO/RCED-90-212 Hazardous Waste at Federal Prison.@ Bureau of Prisons’ Obligations for Hazardous Materials and Waste Projects, October 1,1986 - June Z&l990 Project description Obligations Assessments at dump sites $156,693 Asbestos abatement, removal, and training 6,398,066 PCB removal 294,896 Other miscellaneous projects 38,447 Total $6.888.102 Page 6 GAO/RCED-90-212 Hazardous Waste at Federal Prisons . Appendix II Major Contributors to This l&port Resources, Ed Kratzer, Assistant Director Community, and Gregory A. Kosarin, Evaluator-in-Charge Economic Development Division, Washington, DC. (160084) Page 7 GAO/RCED-90-212 Hazardout~ Wade at Federal Prhna
Hazardous Waste: Efforts to Address Problems at Federal Prisons
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-08-30.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)