oversight

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)

GAO                    Ikport to ttw Cl~airrnan, Sulmmcunittett~:
                       on Govwnnwnt InI’orrnation, ,Justicc,
                       and Agriculture, Chnrnit~tee on
                       Government, Operations, House of’
                       IZepntsont,atives
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        “---.__-._“.“-._--“------
                         HAZARDOUS WASTE
                        Efforts to Address
                        Problems at Federal
                        Prisons

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                RESTRICTED--      Not to be d&&&&&e            the
                General Accounting Oll’ice unless specifically
                approved by the Office of Congressional
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                   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