oversight

Nonhazardous Waste: Environmental Safeguards for Industrial Facilities Need to Be Developed

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-04-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                    Report t,o t,he Cha~irman, Subctornmit,tec: ” If
                    on Transportation and Hazardous
                    Materials, Committ,w on II:nergy and
                    Commerce, House of’ ltt~l>r~~sent,at,ives
._“.I*.“_I-.,---_   --..-


                    NONHAZARDOUS
 April     I!)!)0




                    WASTE
                    Environmental
                    Safeguards for
                    Industrial Facilities
                    Need to Be Developed

                                               -_--
                                                               t?
                                                      lllllllllllllll
                                                       141284
Resources, Community,   and
Economic Development    Division

B-236708

April 12,199O

The Honorable Thomas A. Luken          ,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation
  and Hazardous Materials
Committee on Energy and Commerce
House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Chairman:

As you requested, this report describes the Environmental     Protection Agency’s (EPA)
information on the threats to groundwater posed by industrial nonhazardous waste facilities
and evaluates EPA'S progress for and plans in assessing and revising its 1979 general
standards for these facilities. We also developed information, as requested, on the
environmental controls certain states require for industrial facilities and what groundwater
monitoring has revealed at these facilities in selected states.

As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we will make
no further distribution of this report until 30 days after the date of this letter. At that time,
we will send copies to other appropriate congressional committees; the Administrator,
Environmental Protection Agency; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the state
agencies included in our review; and other interested parties.

This report was prepared under the direction of Richard L. Hembra, Director, Environmental
Protection Issues, who may be reached at (202) 275-6111 if you or your staff have any
questions. Other major contributors are listed in appendix I.




V
J. Dexter Peach
Assistant Comptroller General
l!&ecutive Summary

     /
              Thousands of nonhazardous industrial facilities across the nation handle
P$rpose
 I            wastes that can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater. Under
              the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), the regula-
              tion of facilities that handle only nonhazardous waste is left to the
              states, although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established
              some general standards for these facilities in 1979. The Congress, how-
              ever, aware that groundwater contamination was occurring at nonhaz-
              ardous waste facilities, directed EPA in 1984 to assess and revise its 1979
              standards for these facilities by March 1988 to better prevent ground-
              water contamination.

              Concerned about EPA'S progress in assessing and revising the 1979 stan-
              dards, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Haz-
              ardous Materials, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, asked
              GAO to determine, among other things, (1) the information EPA has on
              threats to groundwater contamination posed by nonhazardous industrial
              facilities and (2) EPA'S progress and plans for assessing and revising its
              standards for these facilities.
 j
              Nonhazardous wastes are not without risk to human health and the
Bkckground    environment. Wastes handled in nonhazardous waste facilities include
              (1) small amounts of hazardous wastes that are exempted from EPA'S
              hazardous waste regulations and (2) other types of nonhazardous waste,
              such as wastes that EPA is studying to identify and regulate as hazardous
              in the future.

              Industrial waste is generated from factories, processing plants, and
              other manufacturing activities. This waste is diverse, ranging from brine
              in the food processing industry to dyes and pigments in the chemical
              industry. It also includes rubble from the construction or demolition of
              buildings and highways. Industrial facilities that handle these types of
              wastes include landfills and surface impoundments (i.e., pits, ponds, and
              lagoons storing liquid wastes).

              EPA'S 1979 standards do not require specific environmental     controls,
              such as the monitoring of groundwater at industrial facilities to detect
              possible groundwater contamination. In 1984, the Congress directed EPA
              to assess whether the 1979 standards for all facilities were adequate or
              needed to be revised to protect against groundwater contamination, EPA
              was also specifically directed to revise its standards for those nonhaz-
              ardous waste facilities that receive small amounts of hazardous wastes



              Page 2                                      GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                        Executive   Summary




                        and that are exempted from more stringent EPA hazardous waste regula-
                        tions. The revised standards are to require, among other things, ground-
                        water monitoring.

     1
     I
                        EPA has strong indications that wastes containing dangerous chemicals
Restlilts in Brief      may be seeping from some nonhazardous industrial facilities into the
     ~
                        soil and groundwater, causing contamination and threatening human
                        health and the environment. These indications are based largely on data
                        EPA collected and analyzed between 1985 and 1987. EPA'S data show that
                        (1) some of these facilities handle small amounts of hazardous waste,
                        such as arsenic, and (2) most facilities do not use environmental controls
                        to prevent or detect groundwater contamination. In addition, EPA
                        believes that some nonhazardous industrial facilities handle other
                        wastes that are dangerous enough for EPA to plan to regulate them as
                        hazardous in the near future.

                        Although required to revise the standards by March 1988, EPA has not
                        done so, and it has made little progress in gathering the data that it
                        believes are necessary to revise the standards. EPA'S existing data, which
                        indicate that these facilities pose environmental threats, are not suffi-
                        cient to support a regulatory proposal to revise the existing standards,
                        according to .EPA. EPA says it will revise the 1979 standards as soon as it
                        has adequate data. In the meantime, however, EPA does not have a strat-
                        egy in place to guide its assessment and revision efforts, Without a
                        strategy, it is not clear how and when EPA will revise its standards or
                        whether it will assess and revise the standards for all industrial facili-
                        ties or just those that handle small amounts of hazardous waste.



Principal Findings

EPA bata on Potential   Between 1985 and 1987, EPA collected data on industrial facilities. On
Threats                 the basis of its initial data collection efforts, EPA estimates that about
                        20,700 landfills and surface impoundments handle most of the more
                        than 7.6 billion tons of industrial nonhazardous waste generated annu-
                        ally. EPA also estimates that 2,200, or more than 10 percent, of the indus-
                        trial facilities handle small amounts of hazardous wastes. The Congress
                        specifically required WA to revise its standards for nonhazardous waste




                        Page 3                                      GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                         Executive   Sumnuuy




                         facilities disposing of small amounts of hazardous waste, such as arse-
                         nic, mercury, and strong acids, because it was particularly concerned
                         about the health threats these wastes may cause.

                         EPA'S data showed that many of these facilities do not have adequate
                         safeguards to prevent and detect groundwater contamination. For exam-
                         ple, only 18 percent of the industrial landfills, 9 percent of the surface
                         impoundments, and 6 percent of the construction/demolition debris
                         landfills have groundwater monitoring that would aid in detecting con-
                         tamination. In addition, state officials reported to EPA that 25 percent of
                         the approximately 2,200 industrial facilities monitoring groundwater
                         were cited in 1984 for violating state standards to protect groundwater.
                         Similarly, state officials told GAO that groundwater monitoring showed
                         contamination at 32 of 112 facilities in 2 states.

                         In addition, EPA has indications that some industrial facilities may con-
                         taminate groundwater with wastes that may be regulated as hazardous
                         in the future. For example, EPA has identified over 100 wastes in such
                         industries as pesticides and dyes and pigments that it may want to regu-
                         late as hazardous waste.


Progress and Plans for   EPA'S stated objective is to revise the 1979 standards as soon as it has
                         adequate data. However, since 1987, EPA has made little progress in
Assessing Standards      gathering and assessing additional data, even though it generally knows
                         what types of data it needs to collect, such as more specific information
                         on the hazards posed by industrial waste and case studies of facilities
                         that have caused environmental damage. In 1988, because of other
                         higher priority work, EPA temporarily suspended work on a mail ques-
                         tionnaire that would have collected some of the data for the revision
                         effort.

                         Moreover, the agency’s plans for accomplishing this objective are not
                         clear. EPA has not yet established milestones for when it will resume
                         work on the suspended mail questionnaire that it describes as critical
                         for its data collection efforts. EPA has also not established the specific
                         tasks or identified the required resources necessary to assess and revise
                         the standards, A strategy that sets out the specific tasks to be per-
                         formed, milestones for the tasks, and the required resources would give
                         greater focus to EPA'S efforts by providing a systematic framework on
                         what should be accomplished and by when.




                         Page 4                                      GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                   Executive   Summary




   I
   I              To give more focus to fulfilling its statutory requirements to assess and
Recmnmendation    revise the 1979 standards, GAO recommends that EPA develop a formal
                  strategy to complete these efforts. This strategy should outline the
                  objectives, specific tasks, milestones for completing the tasks, organiza-
                  tional responsibilities, and required resources necessary to carry out the
                  strategy. In addition, the strategy should include an assessment of the
                  standards for all industrial facilities, as required by statute.


                  GAO discussed the factual information  presented in this report with EPA
Agebcy Comments   and state officials who generally agreed with the facts, and their com-
   I
                  ments have been incorporated into the report where appropriate. As
                  requested, however, GAO did not obtain official comments on the report.




                  Page 6                                     GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
contents


Ekecutive Summary                                                                                        2

Chapter 1                                                                                                8
Inkroduction               How Nonhazardous Waste Is Characterized
                           Industrial Facilities
                                                                                                         8
                                                                                                        10
                           Resource Conservation and Recovery Act                                       11
                           Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                           13

Chapter 2                                                                                               17
EPA Needs to Better        EPA’s Data Suggest That Industrial Facilities Pose
                               Threats
                                                                                                        17
Address the                EPA Does Not Have a Strategy to Complete Its Statutory                       22
Environmental                  Requirements
                           Conclusions                                                                  26
T$reats Posedby            Recommendation                                                               26
Industrial Facilities
Chapter 3                                                                                               28
State Requirements         States Permit Some but Not All Industrial Facilities
                           Requirements for Liners and Groundwater Monitoring
                                                                                                        28
                                                                                                        31
for Environmental               Vary by State
Controls Vary              Concern About Potential Groundwater Contamination                            35
                           Inspections Required but Not All Conducted                                   35
                           Assistance From EPA                                                          36

Chapter 4                                                                                               38
Groundwater                Groundwater Monitoring in California and New Jersey
                           Groundwater Monitoring Reveals Contamination
                                                                                                        38
                                                                                                        40
Monitoring at
Industrial Facilities in
Two States Reveals
Contamination
Appendix                   Appendix I: Major Contributors to This Report                               46

T$bles                     Table 2.1: Seventeen Industries That Produce 99 Percent                      19
            ”                  of All Industrial Waste
                           Table 3.1: Estimates of Permitted Surface Impoundments                      29
                               and Landfills by State


                           Page 6                                    GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
Contents




Table 3.2: Estimated Number and Percent of Permitted                         32
     Surface Impoundments and Landfills With Liners by
    State
Table 3.3: Estimated Number and Percent of Permitted                         34
    Surface Impoundments and Landfills With
    Groundwater Monitoring by State
Table 3.4: Estimated Number of Groundwater                                   35
    Contamination Cases in 1987 and 1988 by State
Table 4.1: The Level of Threat to Groundwater From                           41
    Contamination by Landfills or Surface
    Impoundments in California and New Jersey

Figure 1.1: Groundwater Contamination From a Surface                         11
     Impoundment
Figure 4.1: Results of Groundwater Monitoring at 112                         40
     Industrial Facilities in California and New Jersey




Abbreviations

EPA        Environmental Protection Agency
RCRA       Resource Conservation and Recovery Act


Page 7                                    GAO/RCED-99-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
Chapter 1

Mtroduction


                        Each year U.S. industrial facilities handle billions of tons of waste that
                        is currently regulated as nonhazardous.’ Much of this waste is placed in
                        landfills and surface impoundments (pits, ponds, and lagoons) that can
                        leak and contaminate the groundwater. If groundwater contamination
                        occurs, cleanup can be difficult and expensive. As a result, prevention of
                        contamination is the preferred approach to protecting this valuable
                        resource, which supplies drinking water to approximately half the
                        nation.

                        The Congress addressed the potential for groundwater contamination
                        posed by industrial and other nonhazardous waste disposal facilities,
                        such as municipal landfills, in the Resource Conservation and Recovery
                        Act (RCRA) of 1976. Under RCRA, the Environmental Protection Agency
                        (EPA) is required to develop minimum standards that all waste disposal
                        facilities must meet to be considered environmentally safe. Once these
                        standards have been developed, the states have primary responsibility
                        for enforcing them and for providing additional environmental safe-
                        guards for these facilities, if necessary.

                        Although EPA developed minimum standards to address industrial and
                        other nonhazardous waste disposal facilities in 1979, the Congress later
                        became concerned that groundwater contamination was occurring at
                        these facilities. As a result, the Congress, in 1984, required EPA to assess,
                        by November 8, 1987, whether its 1979 standards could adequately pro-
                        tect against groundwater contamination and, at a minimum, required
                        EPA to revise its standards for those facilities that handle small amounts
                        of hazardous wastes by March 31,1988. In response to these 1984
                        requirements, EPA published proposed regulations in August 1988 to
                        revise its standards for municipal landfills and said it would address the
                        need to revise the standards for industrial facilities in the future.


                               broadly defines solid waste to include solid, semi-solid (sludge), liq-
How Nonhazardous        RCRA
                        uid, and gaseous waste (methane). It further classifies solid waste into
WE&e IS Characterized   two broad categories -hazardous and nonhazardous. EPA defines as haz-
                        ardous those wastes that either (1) exhibit one of four characteristics
                        (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity”) or (2) are among the

                        ‘In this report, industrial facilities refer to landfills and surface impoundments that handle either
                        industrial or construction/demolition debris wastes, unless otherwise noted.
                        ‘Under the toxicity characteristic, a waste is defined as hazardous if a sample of the waste contains a
                        certain minimum concentration of at least one of eight metals and six organic chemicals. Below this
                        minimum level, the waste is not controlled as a hazardous waste.



                        Page 8                                                        GAO/RCED-99-92      Nonhazardous     Waste
 Chapter 1
 Introduction




about 460 commercial products and production-process wastes EPA spe-
cifically lists as hazardous.

Nonhazardous wastes are those that either do not meet EPA'S definition
for hazardous waste or are exempted from hazardous waste regulation.
Generally, nonhazardous wastes include industrial; construction/demoli-
tion debris; municipal; and four “large-volume wastes” excluded by law
from control as hazardous waste, pending development of additional
information to determine the level of control needed.and the economic
impact of regulating these wastes.3 Nonhazardous wastes are not with-
out risk to human health and the environment. For example, they
include wastes that may

contain small amounts of hazardous wastes, including small-quantity
generator waste4 (e.g., arsenic, lead, mercury, and strong acids) and
household hazardous waste (e.g., common household products like
cleansers, solvents, paints, and batteries);
pose substantial human health and environmental threats and that EPA
is studying to determine whether to regulate as hazardous;
contain toxic chemicals in amounts that, while not considered high
enough to warrant regulation as hazardous wastes, could pose some
threat to human health and the environment; and
contain chemicals, such as sodium, that are unlikely to be regulated as
hazardous by EPA but that could adversely affect groundwater quality.

Industrial waste is generated from factories, processing plants, and
other manufacturing activities. The types of waste vary from industry
to industry as well as within an industry-from     brine in the food
processing industry to dyes and pigments in the chemical industry. As a
result, the universe of industrial waste includes wastes with different
chemical compositions and physical form. Industrial waste also includes
construction/demolition debris waste-brush,      stumps, or rubble from
the construction or demolition of bridges, highways, or buildings.




“The four large-volume wastes are (1) drilling fluids and other wastes resulting from oil and gas
production, (2) mining and ore-processing wastes, (3) by-products of fossil fuel combustion, and (4)
cement kiln dust. EPA has conducted special studies on the first three types of large-volume wastes
and is considering promulgating a separate set of standards for them.

4A small-quantity generator is classified by EPA as one that produces less than 100 kilograms of
hazardous waste per month. This waste is exempted from more stringent EPA hazardous waste
regulations.



Page 9                                                      GAO/RCED-99-92     Nonhazardous     Waste
                        Chapter 1
                        Iutruduction




                        Industrial and construction/demolition debris waste is generally dis-
Industrial Facilities   posed of in four types of waste management units-surface       impound-
                        ments, landfills, land application units, and waste piles6 A surface
                        impoundment is a depression in the earth or a diked area that holds liq-
                        uid wastes for treatment, storage, or disposal. A landfill is an area of
                        land or an excavation in the earth where wastes are permanently
                        placed. A land application unit is an area of land where wastes, such as
                        wastewater or sludge, are placed onto or mixed into the soil. A waste
                        pile is a mass of waste generally placed on the ground for storage or
  I                     treatment.

                        Waste management units can cause contamination, for example, when
                        waste seeps from a surface impoundment into the soil or the waste is
                        dissolved by water, such as rainfall, to form leachate. The leachate then
                        migrates down into groundwater. (See fig. 1.1.)




                        “One or more waste management units can be located at a waste disposal facility because various
                        methods may be used to treat, store, and dispose of different types of nonhazardous waste.



                        Page 10                                                    GAO/RCED-90-92     Nouhiuardous   Waste
                                          Chapter 1
                                          Introduction




Figure li.1: Qroundwater Contamination From a Surface Impoundment


                      Mom tormg Well          Surface Impoundment

                                                                                            Monitoring   Wells




                                         In 1976, the Congress passed Subtitle D of RCRA to ensure the safe dis-
ResourceConservation                     posal of nonhazardous solid waste on land. Under Subtitle D, EPA'S role
and Recovery Act                         is limited to (1) establishing voluntary guidelines for states’ solid waste
                                         management plans and (2) developing minimum standards necessary to
                                         protect human health and the environment from nonhaza.iadous waste
                     Y                   facilities. In 1979, EPA promulgated regulations that set out voluntary
                                         guidelines for state solid waste plans and required general minimum
                                         standards for these facilities; it made minor modifications to the stan-
                                         dards in 1981. The standards address surface water, groundwater, air,


                                         Page 11                                      GAO/RCED-90-92        Nonhazardous   Waste
                       Chapter 1
                       Introduction




                       endangered species, flood plains, land application, disease, and safety.
                       They include general requirements, such as groundwater protection
                       standards and a prohibition against the destruction of an endangered
                       species habitat.

                       The states are primarily responsible for enforcing EPA'S standards,
                       which every nonhazardous waste disposal facility must meet, and imple-
                       menting programs to regulate these facilities. Further, states may
                       develop more stringent standards than those established by EPA. For
                       example, states may require permits for these facilities to ensure they
                       are designed and operated in an environmentally safe manner.”


19#4 RCRA Amendments   In the early 198Os, the Congress became increasingly concerned about
  /                    environmental problems, including groundwater contamination caused
                       by industrial and other nonhazardous waste disposal facilities. The con-
                       tamination of groundwater is a concern because the nation depends
                       upon groundwater for a variety of uses. In addition to supplying about
                       half of the nation’s drinking water, groundwater provides about 40 per-
                       cent of the water used for irrigation and about 6 percent of the water
                       used in industry.

                       The Congress believed that without additional environmental protection
                       nonhazardous waste disposal facilities might require costly cleanups
                       with federal funds. It was concerned because (1) these facilities were
                       recipients of unknown quantities of small-quantity generator and house-
                       hold hazardous wastes and (2) design, location, and monitoring stan-
                       dards for these facilities were either nonexistent or far less restrictive
                       than those governing hazardous waste facilities. Consequently, in its
                       1984 RCFU amendments, the Congress required EPA to take two actions,
                       among others, to address groundwater contamination from these
                       facilities.

                       First, under section 4010 of RCRA, EPA was directed to study the ade-
                       quacy of its 1979 standards to protect human health and the environ-
                       ment against groundwater contamination and to report the study’s
                       results to the Congress by November 8, 1987. In particular, EPA was to
                       assess its standards in the areas of groundwater monitoring, prevention
                       of contamination, and corrective action, or cleanup, of contamination
                       that does occur.

                       “A permit is an authorization, license, or similar control document used to implement certain require-
                       ments, environmental in this case.



                       Page 12                                                     GAO/RCED-90-92      Nonhazardous    Waste
                        Chapter    1
                        Introduction




                        Second, EPA was required to revise its standards by March 31, 1988, for
                        nonhazardous waste facilities receiving hazardous wastes from small-
                        quantity generators or households, and, at a minimum, to (1) require
                        groundwater monitoring to detect groundwater contamination early, (2)
                        provide for corrective action of contamination as necessary, and (3)
                        establish criteria for the acceptable location of these facilities. For
                        example, EPA could require facilities to monitor groundwater by install-
                        ing a system of wells around the landfill or surface impoundment to
                        detect changes in groundwater quality. To illustrate, one well would be
                        placed before the groundwater reaches the waste management unit, and
                        others would be placed after the groundwater has flowed by the unit.
                        Samples would then be taken periodically to determine whether the unit
                        is leaking waste and has contaminated groundwater. In addition, if con-
                        tamination does occur, corrective action requirements can better ensure
                        that appropriate action, such as cleanup, can be chosen and imple-
                        mented to remedy the problem.


EPA’; Report to the     In response
                           - _ _---   to its statutory requirements,
                                                               _       EPA reported to the Congress
Con&ess-                in October 198S on the adequacy of its standards. EPA concluded that the
                         1979 standards were not adequate for municipal landfills and in August
                        1988 proposed regulations to revise the standards for the nation’s
                        approximately 6,500 operating municipal landfills. The proposed munic-
                        ipal landfill standards are more specific than the 1979 standards and
                        cover requirements in a number of new areas, such as liners, ground-
                        water monitoring, and corrective action. EPA plans to issue final stan-
                        dards in April 1990. The agency decided to separately address the need
                        to revise its standards for industrial facilities.


                        The Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation and Hazardous Materi-
Objectives, Scope,and   als, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, requested that we
Methodology             review federal and state regulation of industrial facilities. This request
                        was prompted by EPA'S decision to revise its standards for municipal
                        landfills first and to address the need to revise its standards for indus-
                        trial facilities in the future,

                        As agreed, we addressed the following questions:

                        What information does EPA have on the threats to groundwater contami-
                        nation posed by industrial facilities?
                        What are EPA'S plans for and progress in assessing and revising its 1979
                        standards for these facilities?


                        Page 13                                     GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
    Chapter1
    Introduction




. What are some of the environmental controls that certain states require
  for these facilities?
l What has groundwater monitoring at these facilities revealed in selected
  states that require groundwater monitoring?

    We conducted our review at EPA headquarters and in eight states. We
    also spoke with state associations for waste disposal, such as the Associ-
    ation of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials7 We lim-
    ited our work to landfills and surface impoundments, in part because
    the 1984 statutory requirements specifically mention landfills and sur-
    face impoundments. In addition, land application units use environmen-
    tal controls that are substantially different from landfills and surface
    impoundments, and very little information on waste piles is available
    from EPA.

    To determine what information EPA has on the threats posed by these
    facilities, we reviewed the studies EPA completed in response to the 1984
    statutory requirements. EPA'S data collection efforts included Summary
    of Data on Industrial Non-Hazardous Waste Disposal Practices (Dec.
    1985), Census of State and Territorial Subtitle D Nonhazardous Waste
    Programs (Oct. 1986), Screening Survey of Industrial Subtitle D Estab-
    lishments (Dec. 1987), and Report to the Congress: Solid Waste Disposal
    in the United States (~01s. I and II, Oct. 1988). We also discussed the
    studies’ findings with responsible officials in EPA'S Office of Solid Waste.
    We met with officials in the Office of Solid Waste, Characterization and
    Assessment Division, regarding EPA'S hazardous waste identification
    program and reviewed the agency’s documents on industrial wastes that
    it has studied and may identify as hazardous in the future. In addition,
    we reviewed the program’s study on the risk associated with industrial
    nonhazardous waste that contain concentrations of toxic chemicals in
    amounts below threshold levels for being regulated as hazardous waste.
    To determine what other information EPA may have on the threats posed
    by industrial facilities, we contacted officials in and obtained pertinent
    documents from EPA'S Offices of Ground-Water Protection, Drinking
    Water, Research and Development, and Toxic Substances. The results of
    this work are discussed in chapter 2.

    To determine EPA'S plans for and progress in assessing and revising its
    1979 standards for industrial facilities, we interviewed EPA officials in


    7The association is a nonprofit national organization of the directors of state solid and hazardous
    waste management programs and their staffs.



    Page 14                                                      GAO/RCED-90-92      Nonhazardous    Wade
    .

,
        Chnpter 1
        Introduction




        the Office of Solid Waste, Waste Management Division, who are respon-
        sible for assessing and revising the standards for these facilities. In
        addition, we examined EPA'S preliminary planning document and its reg-
        ulatory proposal to obtain information on industrial facilities, Further,
        we reviewed EPA reports prepared pursuant to the Federal Manager’s
        Financial Integrity Act.” The results of this work are discussed in chap-
        ter 2.

        To determine some of the environmental controls that states have for
        industrial facilities, we conducted telephone interviews to obtain infor-
        mation from selected state solid waste and water officials. As agreed
        with the requester, we restricted our telephone interviews to industrial
        landfills and surface impoundments, which are more of an environmen-
        tal concern because of the large volume of waste they handle, and did
        not address construction/demolition debris landfills. State officials in
        Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington were
        interviewed. We selected these states on the basis of geographic distri-
        bution and the number of waste management units in each state.
        According to EPA'S information, these six states had 35 percent of the
        industrial landfills and surface impoundments nationwide. Since indus-
        trial states usually have large numbers of these units, our sample con-
        tains states from the more industrialized regions of the country.

        The telephone interviews focused on permits, liners, and groundwater
        monitoring because of the requester’s interest in these controls. Also,
        these controls are included in EPA'S proposed revisions of its standards
        for municipal landfills, and the EPA official responsible for assessing the
        standards for industrial facilities agreed that these were also major
        environmental controls for these facilities. In addition, we asked about
        (1) inspections of industrial facilities, (2) state officials’ concern about
        the potential for industrial facilities to adversely affect the ground-
        water, (3) the number of groundwater contamination cases caused by
        industrial facilities in the past 2 years, and (4) whether EPA assistance
        was needed for state programs.

        We did not independently verify information obtained from our tele-
        phone interviews, nor did we assess whether the states’ requirements
        adequately protect groundwater from contamination by industrial facili-
        ties. In our interviews, state officials in some instances did not believe
        that a particular question applied to their states or did not have data

        #The act requires agencies to report “material weaknesses” in programs’ internal controls to the Pres-
        ident and the Congress.



        Page 15                                                     GAO/RCXD-90-92     Nonhazardoue    Waste
                                                                           .


    Chapter 1
    Introduction




-
    readily available to provide an answer. We conducted follow-up calls
    with state officials to obtain additional information so that we could
    elaborate on specific aspects of a state’s requirements or an official’s
    opinion. The results of this work are discussed in chapter 3.

    To obtain information on the results of groundwater monitoring in
    selected states, we conducted work in California and New Jersey
    because these two states have required groundwater monitoring at
    industrial facilities since the mid-1980s, and, therefore, had ground-
    water monitoring data available to review. In California, we performed
    our work in two regions of the State Water Resources Control Board-
    the Sacramento Office of the Central Valley Region and the Los Angeles
    Region. We chose these two regions because, according to state records,
    they had the largest number of such facilities. We conducted our review
    at the regional level because no statewide records were maintained on
    groundwater monitoring data. In New Jersey, our work covered facili-
    ties across the entire state because the state’s records were centrally
    located.

    After officials in these two states provided us with the names of facili-
    ties, we contacted state personnel responsible for overseeing ground-
    water monitoring requirements, asking them to identify (1) facilities
    with one or more active industrial landfills, surface impoundments, and
    construction/demolition debris landfills; (2) facilities with groundwater
    monitoring; (3) facilities where such monitoring had revealed wastes in
    the groundwater at levels that exceeded the states’ standards; (4) the
    known or suspected source of contamination; and (6) the actual or
    potential threat to groundwater posed by each facility. The results of
    this work are discussed in chapter 4.

    We discussed the factual information presented in the report with
    responsible EPA and state officials, who generally agreed with the facts,
    and their comments have been incorporated where appropriate. How-
    ever, as requested, we did not obtain official agency comments. We con-
    ducted our review between August 1988 and January 1990 in
    accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




    Page 16                                     GAO/RCED-99-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
       *
Chapter 2

E8PANeedsto Ektter Address the
En~onmental Threats Posedby
Industrial Facilities
                          In the 1984 RCRA amendments, the Congress directed EPA to assess and
                         revise its 1979 standards for industrial facilities by March 31, 1988.
                         However, as of January 1990, EPA had not done so because it does not
                         believe that it has sufficient data to support a regulatory proposal to
                         revise the existing standards. However, EPA does have strong indications
                         that some industrial facilities contaminate groundwater, thereby poten-
                         tially threatening human health and the environment. These indications,
                         which are based largely on data EPA collected between 1985 and 1987,
                         include information about the types and volume of wastes these facili-
                         ties handle and the facilities’ limited use of environmental controls to
                         prevent and detect groundwater contamination. Until EPA assesses and
                         revises the standards, the government cannot be assured that it has
                         taken the steps necessary to adequately protect human health and the
                         environment against groundwater contamination from industrial
                         facilities.

                         Although EPA plans to revise these standards as soon as it has adequate
                         data, it has made little progress since 1987 in collecting these data. Fur-
                         ther, it is not clear how and when EPA plans to revise these standards
                         because the agency has not yet developed a strategy that lays out the
                         objectives, tasks to be performed, milestones, organizational responsibil-
                         ities, and resources necessary to complete the tasks. A strategy contain-
                         ing these elements would give greater focus to the agency’s efforts by
                         providing a systematic framework and timing for expected results.


                         EPA'S data strongly suggest that some industrial    facilities may contami-
EPA’s Data Suggest       nate groundwater and thus threaten human health and the environment.
Th&t Industrial          EPA collected some of these data between 1985 and 1987. These data
Facilities PoseThreats   were developed, in part, to fulfill EPA'S statutory requirements to assess
                         and revise its existing standards for industrial facilities. From these
                         efforts, EPA found that (1) the number of industrial facilities, about
                         20,700, is large; (2) some facilities handle hazardous wastes from small-
                         quantity generators; and (3) few facilities have in place environmental
                         controls that protect against groundwater contamination.

                         EPA'S waste identification program also has data that indicates the
                         threats posed by industrial facilities.’ This program’s studies of indus-
                         trial nonhazardous wastes indicate that some industrial landfills and
                         surface impoundments handle wastes that may later be identified and

                         'This program identifies and evaluates industrial wastes to determine whether they should be con-
                         trolled as hazardous waste.



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                        EPA Needsto Better Addrcse the
                        Environmental Threats Posedby
                        Industrial Facilities




                        regulated as hazardous waste. These wastes may threaten human health
                        and the environment through groundwater contamination, In addition,
                        data from this program indicate that industrial facilities pose environ-
                        mental and human health threats even when they handle wastes that
                        contain toxic chemicals in concentrations below the level EPA regulates
                        as hazardous.


EPA’s Data Collection   EPA gathered general information    on industrial facilities through three
Efforts                 studies conducted between 1985 and 1987. In 1985, EPA completed a
                        literature study that collected and analyzed information from such
                        sources as published and unpublished reports on the characteristics and
                        volume of wastes generated annually by industries that EPA had identi-
                        fied as, among other things, generating the largest amounts of nonhaz-
   /1                   ardous wastes. EPA also surveyed 66 states and territories2 in 1985 and
    I                   1986 to obtain, among other things, information on the number, environ-
   /                    mental controls, and environmental impact of industrial facilities. And
   /
                        finally, because of gaps in the states survey, in 1987, EPA completed a
                        telephone survey of about 18,000 firms in 17 industries (which EPA had
                        determined cover 99 percent of the industrial facilities) in order to
                        obtain 1985 information about the number of on-site disposal facilities
                        and quantities of wastes disposed of in them.


Number and Type of      From its states and telephone surveys, EPA estimates that 20,700 indus-
Facilities              trial facilities (2,800 industrial landfills, 15,300 surface impoundments,
                        and 2,600 construction/demolition debris landfills) are scattered across
                        the nation. EPA also estimates that the 15,300 surface impoundments
                        handle more than 96 percent of the industrial nonhazardous waste that
                        is produced. The large number of these facilities is cause for concern
                        because of the likelihood for groundwater contamination from known
                        discharges of pollutants, according to officials in EPA’S Office of Ground-
                        Water Protection.


Volume and Type of      More than 7.6 billion tons of industrial nonhazardous wastes are gener-
                        ated annually, according to EPA’S 1987 telephone survey estimates. Also,
Wastes                  EPA found that industrial nonhazardous wastes are diverse, ranging
                        from wastes that are potentially hazardous to potentially benign. These

                        %I addition to all 60 states and the District of Columbia, EPA’s survey included the Commonwealth
                        of Puerto Rico, the 1J.S.Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of Northern
                        Mariana.



                        Page 18                                                   GAO/RCED-90-92Nonhazardous Waste
                                       Chapter 2
                                       EPA Needa to Rettm Addrem the
                                       Ruvironmental      Threats Posed by
                                       Industrial Facilitiee




                                       wastes originate from such different sources as the food processing,
                                       paper and pulp, and chemical industries. Table 2.1 shows the 17 indus-
                                       tries that produce 99 percent of all industrial nonhazardous waste.
                                       Within each industry, a wide range of types of wastes exists-waste-
                                       waters, sludges, and solid wastes -that may contain heavy metals or
                                       organic chemicals. Approximately 31 million tons of construction/demo-
                                       lition debris wastes are generated annually, according to EPA’S estimate,
                                       which is based on 1970 data.

Table 2 1: Seventeen Industries That
Produc 99 Percent of All Industrial    Waste in 1,000 tons                                                                          -__
waste 1                                Industry                                                                          Volume of wastea
                                                                                                                                      --
                                       Pulp and paper                                                                        -._      2,251,700
                                       Primary iron and steel                                    -______                             --1,300,541
                                       Electric power generation                                                                      1,092,277
       I                               Inorganic chemicals                                                                               919,725
                                       Stone, clay, glass, and concrete                                                                  621,974
       I                               Food and kindred products                                                                         373,517
                                                                                                                                   -___I
       ,                               Textile manufacturing                                                                             253,780
                                       Plastics and resins manufacturing                                                              -__180,510
                                       Petroleum refining                                                                -               168,632
                                       Fertilizer and agricultural chemicals                                                             165,623
                                       Primary nonferrous metals                                                                          67,070
                                       Selected chemicals and allied products                                                             62,987
                                       Organic chemicals                                           _____                                  58,864
                                       Water treatment                                                                                  58.846
                                       Rubber and misc. products                                                                        24,198
                                       Transportation equipment                                                                         12,669
                                       Leather and leather products                                                      ___-___        3,234
                                       Total                                                                                        7.616.149
                                       aVolume of waste disposed of in 1985, according to EPA’s latest available data, which EPA uses to
                                       estimate the annual volume.
                                       Source: EPA.

                                       From its states survey, EPA also estimates that 2,200, or more than 10
                                       percent, of the nation’s estimated 20,700 industrial facilities handle haz-
                                       ardous waste from small-quantity generators. However, EPA cannot
                                       determine from this information which facilities handle this waste
                                       because it obtained only general information on the number of facilities
                                       from the states and not specific information by facility. However, EPA’S
                                       literature study indicated that seven industries may dispose of small-
                                       quantity generator hazardous wastes in industrial facilities. These



                                       Page 19                                                     GAO/RCED-90-92      Nouhaza.rdou.s    Waste
                         Chapter 2
                         EPA Needs to Better Address the
                         Environmental       Threats Posed by
                         Industrial  Facilities




                         industries are (1) fabricated metals, (2) electrical machinery and electri-
                         cal components, (3) transportation equipment, (4) petroleum refining,
   ~                     (6) other types of machinery, (6) organic chemicals, and (7) inorganic
                         chemicals.


En$ironmental Controls   In its 1986 states survey, EPA found that industrial facilities in 1984
and Impacts              made only sporadic and limited use of environmental controls to mini-
                         mize groundwater contamination.” For example, most industrial land-
                         fills, surface impoundments, and construction/demolition debris
                         landfills did not have design and monitoring controls, such as liners and
  /                      groundwater monitoring, to prevent and detect leakage of wastes, About
                         22 percent, or 3,600, of the surface impoundments had liners, and only
                         about 6 percent, or 800, had synthetic liners, which, according to EPA,
                         are impermeable and better at preventing liquid wastes from leaking out
                         of surface impoundments than are natural liners. Similarly, few indus-
                         trial landfills and construction/demolition debris landfills had liners-
                         about 13 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Also, EPA found that few
                         industrial facilities had groundwater monitoring that could detect waste
                         seepage-about 9 percent (1,400) of the surface impoundments, 18 per-
                         cent (660) of the industrial landfills, and 6 percent (140) of the construc-
                         tion/demolition debris landfills.

                         In addition, EPA believes that surface impoundments are more likely to
                         leak wastes into the soil and groundwater than landfills because they
                         handle liquid wastes while landfills do not. Liquid wastes create a strong
                         downward pressure that can push wastes into the soil, and liquid wastes
                         can move easily into groundwater.

                         From its states survey, EPA found that wastes from industrial facilities
                         may be leaking into groundwater. The states reported to EPA that, of the
                         approximately 2,200 facilities with groundwater monitoring in 1984,
                         about 660, or 26 percent, of them were cited for violations of states’
                         groundwater standards.* Similarly, state officials told us groundwater
                         monitoring revealed contamination at 32 of 112 industrial facilities in 2
                         states. (For further details, see chap. 4.)

                         “These facilities may use a variety of major environmental controls to detect and prevent contamina-
                         tion. Besides liners and groundwater monitoring, they may use such controls as (1) systems to collect,
                         treat, and remove leachate (leachate collection systems); (2) berms and ditches to control leachate
                         and stormwater from flowing in and out (run-on/run-off controls); and (3) a cover to seal the fill
                         material or area once a landfill or surface impoundment is no longer being used.

                         *Because violations can vary in terms of meaning and severity, EPA notes that violations themselves
                         are not always indicative of severe environmental impacts.



                         Page 20                                                     GAO/RCED-90-92     Nouhazardous    Waste
                             Chapter 2
                             EPA Needs to Better Address the
                             Environmental      Threats Posed by
                             Induetrhl  Facilities




Som WastesBeing             Through its waste identification program, EPA has learned that some
Disp sed of at Industrial   industrial facilities handle wastes that are currently regulated as non-
                            hazardous but that may be identified as hazardous in the future. If
Facil’ties May Later Be     wastes are reclassified as hazardous, the facilities handling them would
Regu1 ated as Hazardous     be regulated as hazardous waste facilities, which are subject to more
                            stringent EPA regulations. Because EPA does not know if it has identified
     /                      90 percent or 10 percent of the hazardous waste that may need to be
                            regulated, an increased amount of waste now being regulated as nonhaz-
                            ardous may be regulated as hazardous in the future, according to EPA'S
                            Deputy Director for the waste identification program. Further, EPA has
                            found that industrial facilities may threaten the environment and
                            human health even when they handle wastes with concentrations of
                            toxic chemicals below its regulatory levels for being defined as a hazard-
                            ous waste. This situation happens because EPA generally regulates
                            wastes as hazardous when a high degree of certainty exists that the
                            wastes are dangerous enough to be regulated as hazardous.

                            EPA has identified some industrial   nonhazardous wastes that it believes
                            it may need to regulate as hazardous either by its toxicity characteristic
                            test or through the listing of specific wastes. In 1986, EPA proposed a
                            revision to the toxicity characteristic that could add 38 organic chemi-
                            cals, and it expects this proposal to be final by spring 1990. With this
                            revision, EPA believes that hundreds of industrial nonhazardous facilities
                            handling these wastes may come under hazardous waste regulations.
                            Further, EPA expects to propose 16 additional chemicals to its toxicity
                            characteristic by the end of 1990 and then to review additional chemi-
                            cals for possible inclusion, according to the Characteristics Branch Chief
                            of the Office of Solid Waste.

                            EPA has also identified over 100 production-process wastes that may
                            warrant listing as hazardous, but because the agency is addressing other
                            higher priority efforts with its resources, it has not yet proposed listing
                            them. EPA does not know when a determination will be made to list these
                            wastes or whether all these wastes should be listed as hazardous,
                            according to waste identification officials. These wastes are from the
                            pesticide, organic chemicals, dyes and pigments, and plastics and resins
                            industries. As a result, facilities that handle these wastes will continue
                            to be regulated as nonhazardous waste facilities for the foreseeable
                            future.

                            EPA has also learned that some industrial nonhazardous wastes may
                            threaten the environment and human health even though they contain
                            toxic chemicals in amounts that fall below EPA'S proposed regulatory


                            Page 21                                     GAO/RCED-99-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                                                                                                                 ,              !



                       chapter 2
                       EPA Needs to Better Address the
                       Environmental      Threata Posed by
                       Industrial Facilities




                       threshold, or concentration, levels for being identified as hazardous
                       waste. A 1988 EPA screening study indicates that, under worst-case con-
                       ditions, almost all of the 271 wastes in 12 industries studied can pose a
                       range of risks to human health and the environment. For 11 wastes with
                       4 chemicals not to be included under EPA’S revised toxicity characteris-
                       tic, the cancer risk was greater than 1 cancer per 100 people when the
                       waste was ingested through contaminated groundwater-which          is
                       thousands of times greater than the cancer risk posed by some hazard-
                       ous wastes.6 For all the wastes studied, resource damage-such as
                       groundwater contamination-appeared        to be the greatest concern, fol-
                       lowed by cancer and then non-cancer human health risks.

                       Because this was an initial study to locate areas of risk for more detailed
                       analysis, it incorporated many “worst-case” assumptions. For example,
                       it assumed that contaminated groundwater was ingested from a drink-
                       ing-water well that was located at the immediate edge of a landfill.
                       Under more realistic assumptions, these facilities and wastes would be
                       expected to show less risk. The extent of risk might or might not be
                       significant, according to the official in charge of the study. As of Janu-
                       ary 1990, EPA had no plans to replicate this study using more realistic
                       assumptions to better identify the risks associated with these facilities
                       until it has collected more data on these facilities.


                       EPA’S stated objective is to revise its standards for industrialfacilities as
EPA Does Not Have a    soon as it has adequate data available to support a rulemaking. How-
Strategy to Complete   ever, since its initial data collection efforts between 1986 and 1987, EPA
Its :Statutory         has made little progress in gathering the necessary data to assess and
                       revise its 1979 standards, even though it acknowledges that this effort
Requirements           will take years to complete. Further, the agency has not yet developed a
                       strategy that sets out a concrete plan of action specifying the tasks,
                       milestones, and necessary resources to complete this effort.




                       “In general, EPA’s policy is to use as acceptable cancer risk levels between 1 cancer per 100,000
                       people to 1 per 1 million depending on, among other factors, whether technology is available to detect
                       the chemical at lower levels.



                       Page 22                                                     GAO/RCED-99-92     Nonhazardous    Waste
                         Chapter 2
                         EPA Neede to Better Address the
                         Environmental      Threats Posed by
                         Industrial Facilities




EPA jHas Made Little     Although EPA’S data suggest that industrial facilities pose environmental
Pro&qss in Collecting    threats, EPA believes these data are insufficient to draw conclusions
                         about the threats posed and to support a regulatory proposal revising its
Mor$
--1 Data
       *. to Support a   1979 standards for them. EPA believes that its data are insufficient
Kulepaking               because it will need to collect more accurate and facility-specific infor-
    /                    mation before it can go forward with a rulemaking.

                         EPA says that it needs more data on (1) the hazards posed by industrial
                         nonhazardous wastes; (2) the design, operation and location of indus-
                         trial facilities; (3) groundwater monitoring; and (4) the facilities’ envi-
                         ronmental impact (e.g., case studies of facilities that have caused
                         environmental damage). Types of data that EPA has not yet collected for
                         industrial facilities include case studies, leachate characteristics, and the
                         number of industrial facilities identified as requiring cleanup under the
                         federal Superfund program.”

                         Since it completed its initial data collection efforts in 1987, EPA has made
                         little progress in gathering the data it says it needs. In March 1987, EPA
                         began work to develop a mail questionnaire that would have collected
                         some of the more detailed information that Waste Management Division
                         officials say is needed to support a rulemaking, such as first-time data
                         on facilities in many industries. However, EPA suspended work on this
                         effort in June 1988, before mailing out the questionnaire, to devote its
                         resources instead to ongoing data collection efforts on hazardous waste
                         facilities. As of January 1990, EPA officials responsible for developing
                         the questionnaire did not know when work on the questionnaire will be
                         resumed.

                         As of January 1990, the agency’s only current effort to collect data is an
                         August 1988 proposed rule to require owner/operators of industrial
                         facilities to submit basic information that would identify the number
                         and location of these facilities.’ The proposal also calls for owner/opera-
                         tors to provide information, such as the number of households within 1
                         mile of the facility, that would give EPA an indication of the extent of
                         risk the facilities pose to human health and the environment. The final
                         rule is expected to be published in April 1990, and Waste Management
                         Division officials estimate that they will have these data collected and
                         analyzed by the fall of 1991. EPA’S Waste Management Division officials
                         say the agency intends to use the data to identify samples of facilities

                         “Superfund is a federal program that cleans up contamination at inactive or abandoned hazardous
                         waste sites.

                         7This proposal is part of EPA’s rulemaking to revise its standards for municipal landfills.



                         Page 23                                                      GAO/RCED-99-92      Nonhszardous   Waste
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                          Chapter 2
                          EPA Needs to Better Address the
                          Environmental       Tbreata Posed by
                          Industrial  Facilities




                          for future data collection efforts. However, they are not sure what these
                          additional data collection efforts will be or when they will be conducted.


A S rategy Would Assist   From its experience in revising its standards for municipal landfills, EPA
EPi in Fulfilling Its     generally knows what type of data and steps are necessary to complete
                          its revision efforts. However, the agency has not yet developed a strat-
Rec@rements               egy, or detailed plan, that provides a systematic framework to proceed
                          with its efforts. Without such a strategy, it is unclear how and when EPA
                          will meet its stated objective.

                          Developing a strategy-the     first key step of any major undertaking-is
                          important because it gives focus to agency efforts and serves as a bench-
                          mark for measuring agency performance. If coordinated within the
                          agency, it informs staff of their organizational responsibilities. If com-
                          municated outside the agency, it provides a sense of agency direction,
                          priorities, and timing for expected results. It also provides the Congress
                          with a sense of what can be achieved with the level of resources com-
                          mitted and a way to hold EPA accountable for achieving its stated
                          objectives.

                          In a 1988 report, we identified key elements that EPA needed to incorpo-
                          rate into the management of its hazardous waste program.8 They
                          included establishing a strategy, or planning document, that lays out the
                          (1) objectives, (2) specific tasks to be completed, (3) milestones for com-
                          pleting the tasks, (4) organizational responsibilities, and (6) necessary
                          resources to carry out the strategy. As with its hazardous waste pro-
                          gram, some of these key elements are missing or incomplete in EPA’S cur-
                          rent plans to assess and revise its standards for industrial facilities.

                          First, while EPA’S overall objective is to revise the standards, this objec-
                          tive does not specifically address, and the agency has not decided,
                          whether its assessment and revision effort will include all or some
                          industrial facilities. At a minimum, EPA will assess and revise its stan-
                          dards, as required, for those facilities that receive small-quantity gener-
                          ator and household hazardous waste, according to the Acting Chief of
                          the Waste Management Division. However, the 1984 amendments
                          require EPA to assess the adequacy of its 1979 standards for all indus-
                          trial facilities and, at a minimum, to revise the standards for those facili-
                          ties handling small-quantity generator and household hazardous waste.

                          “Hazardous Waste: New Approach Needed to Manage the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
                          (GAO/RCED _88 - 116 , July 19, 1988).



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Industrial Facilities




Therefore, it is unclear whether EPA is going to meet its statutory
requirement to assess its standards for all facilities.

Second, EPA has not yet established the specific tasks necessary to
accomplish its objective. But, the agency has begun work identifying
potential tasks that it says could eventually lead to the development of a
detailed work plan for its assessment and revision effort. These poten-
tial tasks are contained in a November 1989 draft report from the Waste
Management Division entitled Status Report: Industrial Subtitle D Waste
Program. The draft does little beyond listing the agency’s previously
mentioned data collection efforts, such as the suspended mail question-
naire, and other potential data collection efforts, such as obtaining back-
ground reports on those industries targeted in the toxicity characteristic
study. As a result, it falls short of detailing the tasks necessary to
achieve the agency’s stated objective.

Third, the agency has not set milestones for when it will develop a
detailed strategy or complete this effort. EPA officials estimate that, once
begun, this effort will take 6 years- 3 years to collect and analyze the
necessary data and 3 years for a rulemaking process. However, EPA offi-
cials based this estimate on the agency’s past experience in revising the
standards for municipal landfills and other rulemaking efforts, rather
than a systematic assessment of the time required to complete the spe-
cific tasks necessary for this effort. Consequently, the agency will not be
able to comply with its statutory requirements to assess and revise its
standards until 1996 at the earliest, or more than 8 years after the stat-
utory deadlines have passed. In addition, the agency has not established
interim milestones for completing such tasks as the suspended mail
questionnaire, which the draft, status report refers to as critical for
gathering adequate and accurate data on industrial facilities.

Fourth, the agency has not yet identified organizational responsibilities
for completing the revision effort. In addition, the draft status report
identifies potential responsibilities for several offices, but it does not
include other EPA offices that should have a role-e.g., the Characteriza-
tion and Assessment Division, which handles the waste identification
program.

Last, EPA has not yet identified the resources that will be necessary to
carry out its efforts. It has not yet determined the amount of staff years
or funds it will need to collect and analyze additional data or to com-
plete its rulemaking activities. Without the identification of the neces-
sary resources, it is difficult for EPA and the Congress to adjust funding


Page 26                                     GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
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                 EPA Needs to Better Addrese the
                 Rxwkmmenti         Threats Posed by
                 Industrial Facilities




                 levels or make other changes in their priorities to achieve the assess-
                 ment and revision,


                 EPA’S information  from its data collection efforts on industrial facilities
Cohchsions       and its ongoing program to identify hazardous wastes, taken together,
                 suggests that these facilities can contaminate groundwater and thus
                 threaten human health and the environment. However, EPA does not
                 believe that it now has sufficient information to support a regulatory
                 proposal to revise its standards for these facilities. To meet its statutory
                 requirements, EPA says it needs to collect more data in order to further
                 study the adequacy of its standards for all industrial facilities.

                 EPA’S stated objective is to revise the standards for industrial facilities
                 when it has adequate data to support a rulemaking. However, EPA has
                 not said whether it will assess and revise the standards for some or all
                 facilities. To meet its statutory requirements, EPA must assess the stan-
                 dards for all facilities and, at a minimum, revise the standards for those
                 facilities handling small amounts of hazardous waste. Almost 2 years
                 past its statutory deadline, EPA has collected no additional data, and it
                 has not developed a strategy for achieving its objective, It also has not
                 set milestones for when it will develop such a strategy or complete its
                 revision efforts. A strategy that comprises key elements (such as its
                 objectives, specific tasks, milestones, organizational responsibilities, and
                 necessary resources) would assist EPA in managing this effort by focus-
                 ing the agency’s efforts. It would also serve to communicate the agency’s
                 plans and needs to the public and the Congress. Thus, if the agency’s
                 plans and time frames are unacceptable, the Congress would have the
                 opportunity to adjust funding levels or make other changes. In the
                 absence of a strategy, it is not clear how and when the agency will
                 achieve its stated objective. Further, until EPA assesses and revises the
                 standards, the government can not be assured that it has taken the steps
                 necessary to adequately protect human health and the environment
                 against groundwater contamination from industrial facilities.


                 To give more focus to its statutory requirements to assess and revise the
Recommendation   standards, we recommend that the Administrator, EPA, develop a formal
                 strategy to fulfill these requirements. This strategy should establish the
                 objectives, specific tasks to be completed, milestones for completing the
         J       tasks, organizational responsibilities for carrying out the tasks, and
                 required resources to carry out the strategy. In addition, the strategy



                 Page 26                                      GAO/RCED-99-92   Nonhazardous   Wa&e
    Chapter 2
    EPA Nemda to Better Address the
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    Industrial  Facilities




    should include an assessment of the standards for all industrial facili-
    ties, as required by the statute.




Y




    Page 27                                     GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
    /                                                                                                                ,            1
Chapter 3

St&e Requirementsfor Environmental
C&dirols
  /      Vary

                        To obtain information on some of the environmental controls that cer-
                        tain states require for industrial facilities, we conducted telephone inter-
                        views with six states.’ The states contacted (Alabama, Ohio,
                        Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington) varied in their
                        requirements for permits, liners, and groundwater monitoring. All six
                        states require permits for some industrial landfills and surface impound-
                        ments. However, the states differed on whether they require liners and
                        groundwater monitoring for all or some permitted facilities, and they
                        generally differed in their reasons for their approaches.

                        Five states categorically exempt certain facilities from permit require-
                        ments as well as all other environmental controls. Most states also do
                        not review these unpermitted facilities to determine whether they pose
                        a risk to the environment and need environmental controls to protect
                        against groundwater contamination. Because they could handle harmful
                        wastes but are not required to have controls, unpermitted facilities may
                        threaten groundwater, according to an official in EPA'S Waste Manage-
                        ment Division,

                        Officials in the six states uniformly said they were concerned that
                        industrial landfills and surface impoundments would contaminate
                        groundwater. Moreover, five of the six states had experienced one or
                        more cases of groundwater contamination from these facilities. All six
                        states also require inspections for permitted facilities, but most were not
                        able to conduct all required inspections for 1988 because of a lack of
                        resources. Nine of the 11 state officials interviewed believe EPA could
                        assist them in their programs for industrial facilities by providing more
                        technical assistance and specific minimum technical standards.


                        According to our telephone interviews, all six states require permits for
States Permit Some      some industrial facilities, although a variety of exemptions to permit
but Not A11Industrial   requirements exist. As shown in table 3.1, the estimated number of per-
Facilities              mitted surface impoundments ranges from 90 facilities with 1 or more
                        surface impoundments in Tennessee to 1,347 individual surface
                        impoundments in Ohio. The estimated number of permitted landfills
                        ranges from 7 facilities with 1 or more landfills in Texas to 109 individ-
                        ual landfills in Pennsylvania.



                        ‘In this chapter, industrial facilities refer only to landfills and surface impoundments that handle
                        industrial nonhazardous waste.



                        Page 28                                                      GAO/RCED-90-92      Nonhazardous     Waste
                                            Chapter 3
                                            State Requirement8     for Environmental
                                            Controls Vary




       I


Table 3.h: Estimates of Permitted
Surface’lmpoundments and Landfills by                                                                                Pt?WINt~~
State                                                                                                                                      Permitted
                                            State                                                              impoundments                 landfills
                                            Alabama                                                                      600                        79
                                            Ohio                                                                           1,347”                   20b
                                            Pennsylvania                                                                     28ab                 109
                                            Tennessee                                                                         90b                   57
                                            Texas                                                                            700b                     7b
                                            Washinaton                                                                            c                 45
                                            Total U                                                                       3,025                   317
                                            aThe state’s most recent estimate is based on 1980 data.
                                            “Represents the number of facilities with one or more landfills or surface impoundments. As a result, the
                                            estimate represents the minimum number of landfills or surrace impoundments in the state.

                                            ‘No estimate available because local health departments    issue permits and the state has no centralized
                                            data.


                                            Five of the six states exempt one or more categories of surface impound-
                                            ments or landfills from permit requirements and do not require any
                                            environmental controls at unpermitted facilities. The five states present
                                            a complicated array of permit exemptions for surface impoundments
                                            and landfills. Of the six states, only one-Pennsylvania-requires        per-
                                            mits for all industrial units. All states but Texas and Washington permit
                                            all landfills. For surface impoundments, however, there is no clear pat-
                                            tern to the type of facility permitted-a     facility exempted in one state
                                            may be permitted in another. The following discussion outlines each
                                            state’s exemptions from permit requirements and reasons for them, as
                                            explained by state officials:

                                        l   Alabama. Exempts surface impoundments unless they (1) are associated
                                            with waste treatment plants2 that discharge treated wastewater to sur-
                                            face water and (2) were established after the state instituted a permit
                                            requirement. The permit requirement was established sometime prior to
                                             1979. Rather than permitting each impoundment at a treatment plant,
                                            Alabama issues the permit to the plant, and approves all impoundments
                                            associated with the plant as part of the permit requirements. Alabama is
                                            considering the development of a separate program to permit all surface
                                            impoundments. This would ensure that all new impoundments are built


                                            2A waste treatment plant treats liquid wastes and then generally discharges the wastewaters to sur-
                                            face water, spreads them on land, or recycles them for use in the waste treatment process. The’Clean
                                            Water Act requires every waste treatment plant discharging wastewater into a river or stream to
                                            obtain a permit that limits the amounts and types of pollutants that may be discharged.



                                            Page 29                                                       GAO/RCED-90-92      Nonhazardous     Waste
                                                                                       -
       Chapter 3
       State Requirements   for Environmental
       Controls V4uy




+
       with controls commensurate with their potential to contaminate
       groundwater.
       Ohio. Exempts surface impoundments in operation before the state
       established a permit requirement in 1976. The state does not have the
       resources to regulate these older facilities.
       Tennessee. Exempts surface impoundments unless they are associated
       with wastewater treatment plants that do not discharge treated waste-
       water to surface water. Like Alabama, Tennessee issues permits to
       plants rather than to individual surface impoundments. Such treatment
       plants include those that spread wastewater on land or recycle water for
       use in the waste treatment process. These plants require permits
       because they are more likely to receive dangerous waste and pose a
      threat to groundwater or surface water than plants discharging treated
       wastewater to surface water. The latter must meet federal permit
       requirements.
      Texas. Exempts all on-site landfills as well as on-site surface impound-
      ments that are not part of a wastewater treatment plant. On-site refers
      to any unit owned by the waste generator that is within SOmiles of the
      waste-generating site. This exemption, which is written into state legis-
      lation, probably occurred because the state lacked resources to permit
      all facilities. Off-site facilities are permitted because they receive many
      types of waste and thus are considered more likely to receive dangerous
      wastes that require more controls. On-site facilities generally receive one
      waste, and because the industry both produces and disposes of the
      waste and must notify the state of its plans for waste disposal units, the
      state is assured that the industry is knowledgeable about proper dis-
      posal methods.
    . Washington. Exempts landfills and surface impoundments handling less
      than 1,200 tons over the expected life of the unit because of limited
      resources. These small units are less likely to cause environmental dam-
      age if they should leak than are larger units, which are permitted.

      Of the five states with permit exemptions, only Texas monitors unper-
      mitted facilities. Among other things, Texas requires owners or opera-
      tors to submit construction plans for new landfills or surface
      impoundments. The state has the authority to suggest, but not require,
      appropriate controls. Texas also requires annual state inspections of
      unpermitted facilities. However, less than half of these inspections were
      completed in 1988 because of resource constraints.

      The unpermitted facilities in the five states could pose environmental
      and human health threats for a variety of reasons, according to the EPA



      Page 30                                     GAO/RCED80-92   Nonhazardous   Waste




                                                                                   i
                       Chapter 3
                       State Requirements   for Environmental
                       Controls Vary




                       official responsible for assessing and revising the standards for indus-
                       trial facilities. For example, the small surface impoundments or landfills
                       exempted from permit requirements in Washington could contain
                       exempted hazardous or other toxic wastes, such as acids from batteries,
                       that could damage groundwater. As a result, this official told us the five
                       states with permit exemptions should review all exempted industrial
                       facilities for their potential environmental impact, such as groundwater
                       contamination, and require controls commensurate with the potential
                       risk rather than categorically exempting facilities from having permits
                       and controls.


                       We also asked state officials about the requirements for two environ-
Reqbirements for       mental controls, liners and groundwater monitoring, used at permitted
Lincjrs and            industrial facilities to prevent and detect groundwater contamination.
Gro ’ dwater           All six states said they required these controls for some permitted facili-
                       ties but differed as to whether these requirements were applicable for
MOI-r”
     itoring Vary by   all facilities or only on a site-specific basis. However, although some
Statk                  states require liners or groundwater monitoring for all permitted facili-
                       ties, not all facilities in these states have these controls in place because
                       the states have not fully implemented their requirements or have
                       exempted older facilities from meeting their requirements.


Linei, Requirements    Liners are placed beneath and around surface impoundments and land-
                       fills to prevent wastes from leaking into the soil and contaminating
                       groundwater. They are constructed of compacted soil, clay, or synthetic
                       material, all of which are relatively impermeable. Facilities can also
                       have double liners to provide additional protection against leakage.

                       The need for a liner, and the type of liner material required, can depend
                       upon a variety of factors, such as the locatjon of a facility and the type
                       of waste that will be handled in it. For example, at a sensitive location-
                       over an important aquifer- a liner may be required to prevent wastes
                       from contaminating groundwater. For surface impoundments, which
                       generally handle liquid wastes, EPA recommends synthetic liners because
                       they are more impermeable than clay or compacted soil, thereby provid-
                       ing more protection against leakage.

                       Table 3.2 summarizes the results of our survey. As shown in the table,
                       the percent of permitted surface impoundments with liners ranges from
                       11 percent in Tennessee to 83 percent in Alabama for the five states
                       with available data, For permitted landfills, the range is from 5 percent


                       Page 31                                      GAO/RCED-99-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                                                                                                                                            r




                                          Chapter 3
                                          State Requirements     for Environmental
                                          Controls Vary




                                          in Tennessee to 57 percent in Texas for the four states with available
                                          data.
---
lab 3.2: Estimated Number and
Per4 nt of Surface Impoundments and                                 Surface impoundments                                      Landfills
Per1 Red Landfills With Liners by State   State                Liner reauired Number Percent                     Liner reaulred Number Percent
                                          Alabama              alla                      500         83          site-specific              7
                                                                                                                                           ---              9
                                          Gio                  alla                      674         50          all                          b                 b
                                                                                                                                            -___
                                          Pennsvlvania         site-wecific              109         38”         site-wecific              11           10
                                          Tennessee            site-specific              10         11          site-wecific               3            5
                                                                                                                 certain
                                          Texas                site-specific
                                                                -                    -   350         50          categories                 4           57
                                                                                               b          b                                     b               b
                                          Gshinaton            all                                               all
                                          aThe liner requtrement applies to all units that were built after the requirement was established. As a
                                          result, less than 100 percent of all permitted units have liners.

                                          bThe state was implementing this control at all units at the time of our telephone interviews. As a result,
                                          the number of permitted units with liners is not available.

                                          ‘Estimate based on 1980 data.


                                          Along with the wide range in the estimates of lined units, the six states
                                          vary in their requirements for liners at permitted facilities, and state
                                          officials gave different reasons for their approaches. For those states
                                          requiring liners at all permitted surface impoundments, landfills, or
                                          both, officials contended that all permitted industrial facilities need
                                          some type of liner to protect against leakage. For example, an Ohio
                                          groundwater official explained that states often do not know all the
                                          chemicals in permitted industrial surface impoundments because the
                                          wastewater is usually tested for only a limited number. In addition,
                                          there is no federal requirement that states periodically determine
                                          whether the chemical composition of the wastes going into the surface
                                          impoundments has changed over time. Ohio has found chemicals in was-
                                          tewaters-sulfates,    phosphates, and ammonia-that        would not show up
                                          in standard wastewater tests. Because such wastes can affect ground-
                                          water, Ohio has required liners for all new permitted surface impound-
                                          ments since 1987 but does not have the resources to extend the
                                          requirement to older facilities. Using a different approach, Texas
                                          requires certain classes of permitted landfills-those     with wastes that
                                          break down rapidly in the environment or those that are more hazard-
                                          ous-to have liners because it believes these wastes present more poten-
                                          tial harm to the environment and should have more stringent controls,
                                          according to a state solid waste official. In contrast, the other states gen-
                                          erally said that their decision to require a liner on a site-specific basis
                                          depended on the type of waste being disposed of or the suitability of the


                                          Page 32                                                             GAO/RCED-90-92     Nonhazardous       Waste
                       Chapter 8
                       State Requirements   for Environmental
                       Controls Vary




                       facility’s location. For example, a surface impoundment located far from
                       groundwater with harmless waste, such as water used only for cooling
                       machinery in an industrial process, would not require a liner, according
                       to a Pennsylvania official.

                       States also vary in the type of material they require for liners. They
                       generally determine the liner material required-compacted        soil, clay,
                       or synthetic-according      to the type of waste the permitted surface
                       impoundment or landfill handles or the suitability of its location. How-
                       ever, Alabama, Washington, Ohio, and Texas require composite liners-
                       that is, a single liner with both a clay and synthetic layer-for   some
                       permitted industrial facilities. Alabama requires composite liners for
                       some landfills and Washington for some surface impoundments and
                       landfills, according to the type of waste and location of the unit. Ohio
                       requires these liners at all permitted landfills because it considers a com-
                       posite liner to be more effective than a single liner of either material,
                       according to a state solid waste official. Texas requires a composite liner
                       for a certain class of permitted landfills-ones    handling wastes the state
                       defines as more hazardous.


Groundwater Monitori   Because surface impoundments and landfills with or without liners and
Reqvirements           other controls can leak wastes, groundwater monitoring is used at indus-
                       trial surface impoundments and landfills to detect such leakage into the
                       groundwater and to determine the extent and severity of any
                       contamination.

                       The six states’ requirements for groundwater monitoring are summa-
                       rized in table 3.3. For states with available data, the percentage of units
                       with groundwater monitoring ranged from 6 percent in Alabama to 60
                       percent in Ohio and Pennsylvania for surface impoundments and from
                       16 percent in Alabama to 90 percent in Pennsylvania for landfills.




                       Page 33                                     GAO/RCEDW-92   No nhaaardolM   wale
                                                                                                                                         ,


                                      Chapter 3
                                      State Reqdrements      for Environmental
                                      Controla Vary




Tablq3.3: Estimated Number and
Pero nt of Surface lmpoundmentr and                             Surface impoundments                                         Landfills
Penn od Landfills With Groundwater                         Monitoring                                        Monitoring
Mon orlng by Stat0                    State                required        Number Percent                    required             Number Percent
    t
                                      Alabama              site-specific              30        -5           site-specific               13          16
    I                                                      certain
                                      Ohio                 categories                674         50          all                         IO          -50a
                                      Pennsylvania         site-specific             144         50          allb                        98           90
                                      Tennessee            site-specific              11         12          site-specific               33           58
                                                                                                             certain
                                      Texas               site-specific              140         20          categories                   2          29
                                      Washington          alla                             a          a      all                              a           a

                                      aThe state was implementing this control at all units at the time of our telephone interviews. As a result,
                                      the percent of units with groundwater monitoring was less than 100, or data were not available.
                                      bThe groundwater monitoring requirement applies to all units that were built after the requirement was
                                      established. As a result, less than 100 percent of all permitted units have groundwater monitoring.


                                      As is the case with liners, the table shows the states also vary in their
                                      requirements for groundwater monitoring. The Washington State official
                                      responsible for all facilities and the Ohio and Pennsylvania officials
                                      responsible for landfills require groundwater monitoring at all permitted
                                      landfills and surface impoundments for the same reason that state offi-
                                      cials require liners at all units- because all can cause groundwater con-
                                      tamination. Ohio, with a different strategy, requires groundwater
                                      monitoring for all surface impoundments except those with a double
                                      liner. This approach offers the facility owner/operator an incentive to
                                      use and maintain double liners, which provide more protection than sin-
                                      gle ones, and avoid the more costly groundwater monitoring require-
                                      ment, according to an Ohio groundwater official. Double-lined surface
                                      impoundments must install a system between the liners to detect leaks,
                                      and if the top liner leaks and remains unrepaired, the state requires the
                                      facility to install groundwater monitoring, according to this official. In
                                      contrast, states using a site-specific approach generally required
                                      groundwater monitoring depending on the type of waste and location of
                                      the facility. In Tennessee, regarding landfills permitted prior to about
                                      July 1988, state officials weighed the cost of groundwater monitoring
                                      against the risk of not installing this control, according to the state’s
                                      Director of the Solid Waste Management Division. Therefore, ground-
                                      water monitoring was not required if the waste was considered to be
                                      relatively harmless to the environment. However, the state has found
                                      that landfills sometimes receive more harmful wastes than the owner/
                                      operator anticipated at the time of permitting. As a result, the state has
                                      required groundwater monitoring at the majority of landfills permitted
                                      after July 1988.


                                      Page 34                                                             GAO/RCED-90-92      Nonhazardous        Waste
                                     chapter 3
                                     State Requirements      for Environmental
                                     Controls Vary




                                     All officials interviewed said they were concerned about groundwater
Con ’ m About                        contamination at industrial facilities for one of the following reasons:
Pate T tid Groundwater               (1) the state is responsible for protecting groundwater quality, (2) some
Cant’pmination                       industrial facilities have caused groundwater contamination, in the past,
                                     and (3) some unpermitted facilities do not have proper controls.

                                     According to estimates from officials in 5 of the 6 states, 76 cases of
                                     groundwater contamination were caused or suspected to have been
                                     caused by industrial nonhazardous surface impoundments and landfills
                                     in 1987 and 1988.” These state officials generally defined groundwater
                                     contamination as any amount of chemical in the groundwater above
                                     levels that would naturally occur. As shown in table 3.4, the estimated
                                     number of groundwater contamination cases at surface impoundments
                                     ranged from none in Tennessee to 17 in Texas. For landfills, estimates
                                     ranged from none in Alabama to 17 in Texas.

Table 3.k: Estimated Number of
Groundkater Contamination Cases in                                                            Surface
1987 an! 1988 by State               State                                              impoundments           Landfills            Total
                                     Alabama                                                         10                    0          10
                                     Ohio                                                            12                10             22
                                     Pennsvlvania                                                         a                    a           a
                                     Tennessee        ~-                                             0                  1                  1
                                     Texas                                                          17                 17             34
                                     Washington._____.                                                   a                a                a
                                     Total                                                          39                28              87
                                     aThe state did not have this information readily available.


                                     In addition to the six states we contacted by telephone, we also gathered
                                     detailed information on what groundwater monitoring has revealed in
                                     California and New Jersey. These results are presented in chapter 4.


                                     The six states contacted use inspections to determine whether facilities
InsI-jectionsRequired                are meeting permit requirements. Four states (Alabama, Pennsylvania,
but :Not All Conducted               Texas, and Washington) require state inspections for both surface
                                     impoundments and landfills, while two require state inspections for
                                     either permitted surface impoundments or landfills. In Ohio, local health
                                     agencies are generally responsible for inspecting landfills. Tennessee has
                                     no inspection requirement for surface impoundments, but officials did

                                     %xmylvania   did not have information on the number of surface impoundments with contamination,
                                     and Washington had no information on the number of cases for surface impoundments or landfills.



                                     Page 36                                                       GAO/RCED-SO-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                                                                                                    .
                      Chapter 3
                      State Requirements   for Environmental
                      Controla vary




                      inspect about half of these facilities in 1988 on a discretionary basis. Of
                      the states requiring inspections for landfills, four said they require state
                      inspections once a year or more, and one (Washington) had no fixed
                      schedule but inspects landfills on a discretionary basis. For surface
                      impoundments, Texas requires annual inspections for all permitted sur-
                      face impoundments while three states (Alabama, Ohio, and Penn-
                      sylvania) generally require annual inspections for surface
                      impoundments associated with a major wastewater treatment facility
                      and inspections for others every 3 years. As with landfills, Washington
                      requires inspections for surface impoundments but had no fixed sched-
                      ule for conducting them, according to a state water official.

                      In general, the states lacked the resources to complete all required
                      inspections in 1988, according to state officials. Alabama and Penn-
                      sylvania officials said they completed all or almost all required inspec-
                      tions for both landfills and surface impoundments in 1988. Officials in
                      Ohio and Texas told us they conducted all or almost all of the required
                      inspections for surface impoundments, whereas Washington conducted
                      very few. For landfills, Tennessee conducted half or more than half of
                      the required inspections while Texas and Washington conducted fewer
                      than half. Ohio did not have inspection data available for landfills.

                      Some state officials also said that they used permit renewal as an over-
                      sight mechanism at industrial facilities. For surface impoundments, offi-
                      cials in three states (Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas) said they renewed
                      permits for surface impoundments every 5 years, while Washington
                      renewed permits annually. For landfills, Alabama and Washington
                      renew permits every 5 years, according to state officials.


                      Nine of the 11 state officials interviewed said they would like EPA'S
Assistance From EPA   assistance in their programs for these facilities. Officials in Alabama,
                      Ohio, and Pennsylvania said that EPA needs to set standards for indus-
                      trial facilities, such as design requirements, either (1) to preclude ship-
                      ment of wastes from states with stringent regulations to those with few
                      or (2) to ensure that groundwater is adequately protected throughout
                      the country. In addition, the Assistant Chief of the Ohio Groundwater
                      Division said that minimum federal standards for industrial facilities,
                      similar to EPA'S proposed municipal standards, would give states a man-
                      date to move forward in regulating industrial facilities. Without such a
                      mandate, states will focus on other environmental areas, such as surface
                      water, where federal mandates already exist, according to this official.



                      Page 36                                     GAO/RCED-30-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
.
    Chapter 3
    State Requirements   for Environmental
    Controb Vary




    In addition, officials in Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas said
    that EPA should provide technical assistance or information to the states.
    Generally, these state officials felt that EPA should be a repository of
    information on the proper controls to use at facilities and should share
    this information with the states. Some of these officials said that indi-
    vidual states do not have programs in place to research the latest envi-
    ronmental control technology or determine what controls work best in
    different geographical regions of the country. EPA officials said that EPA
    has the authority to provide this assistance under RCRA, but it has pro-
    vided very little since 1980 because of lack of funding. Finally, officials
    in Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington said they would like fed-
    eral funding for state programs. Pennsylvania and Ohio officials also
    noted that federal funding would be needed if EPA requires further con-
    trols that states must enforce for industrial facilities.




    Page 37                                     GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
Ch&ter      4

Groundwater Monitoring at Industrial Facilities
ti Two Statis RevealsContamination

---?-----
                     Groundwater monitoring can provide early information about the leak-
                     age of wastes from landfills and surface impoundments into the ground-
                     water. As a result, it enables actions to be taken to minimize the extent
                     and impact of such contamination. In California and New Jersey,
                     groundwater monitoring identified for state officials those industrial
                     facilities that they believe require closer attention and warrant further
                     study to determine the extent and source of contamination and the need
                     for cleanup. The results of groundwater monitoring in California and
                     New Jersey show that some of these facilities are a source of ground-
                     water contamination and confirm EPA'S finding that these facilities may
                     contaminate groundwater and threaten the environment.



                     itoring at industrial facilities. California established these requirements
                     because early detection allows action to minimize effects on water qual-
California and New   ity. In addition, officials with the State Water Resources Control Board
                     said that the cost of preventing contamination with groundwater moni-
Jeisey               toring is less expensive than the cost of cleaning up contaminated
                     groundwater.’ Groundwater monitoring is required while the facility is
                     operating and after it closes, unless all wastes, waste residues, and con-
                     taminated materials are removed and decontaminated at closure. To
                     require groundwater monitoring, one of the nine regional boards of the
                     State’s Water Resources Control Board issues or revises facility owner/
                     operators’ waste discharge requirement, which is similar to a permit.
                     Regional boards review waste discharge requirements periodically and
                     may revise them following a review.

                     In February 1989, we provided a data collection form to technical staff
                     in two California regional board areas. Using readily available informa-
                     tion, they identified a total of 88 active industrial facilities and told us
                     that 38, or 43 percent, of these facilities were monitoring groundwater.
                     According to regional board officials, some facilities were not monitoring
                     groundwater because the regional boards do not have the resources to
                     issue or revise each facility’s waste discharge requirements to impose
                     groundwater monitoring requirements.

                     In New Jersey, groundwater monitoring is required at all industrial
                     facilities through a groundwater discharge permit, which the state

                     ‘There is no universal definition of contamination. Throughout this chapter, we use New Jersey’s
                     definition of groundwater contamination-groundwater      with waste constituents at levels above the
                     state’s standards or prescribed limits.



                     Page 38                                                     GAO/RCED-90-92 Nonhazardous Waste
Chapter 4
Groundwater    Monitoring   at Industrial
Facilities in Two States
Reveals Contamination




began issuing in the early 1980s. New Jersey requires groundwater mon-
itoring at these facilities to identify problems early in order to take nec-
essary corrective measures in a timely manner, according to the state’s
assistant director in charge of groundwater quality. Groundwater moni-
toring is required while a facility is operating and for a period of time
after it is closed. The permits are issued and renewed for a set period of
time, not to exceed 5 years.

Although New Jersey requires groundwater monitoring for these facili-
ties, not all the industrial facilities identified in our review had been
required to conduct groundwater monitoring when we administered our
data collection form in the state in March 1989. On the basis of readily
available information, state officials reported that 74, or 86 percent, of
the total 86 active industrial facilities identified were monitoring
groundwater. Facilities that were not doing so, officials said, had not yet
been issued a permit requiring monitoring because of resource con-
straints, or were not in compliance with their permit requirements.

In both states, the facility owner/operator must periodically submit
reports on the results of samples taken from the groundwater monitor-
ing wells. California regional technical staff and New Jersey state geolo-
gists review these reports to determine if groundwater standards have
been exceeded and, if so, to what extent. While the reports may show
that levels or standards have been exceeded, the significance and nature
of this contamination varies and thus warrants different responses,
according to the Assistant Director, Ground Water Quality Management
Element, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. There-
fore, in some cases the states continue to review the periodic reports,
and in other cases they may require the owner/operator either to study
the extent and source of contamination or to clean up contamination.
For example, if a facility is believed to be contaminating groundwater
that is already of poor quality and the groundwater has no current or
potential use, the state may continue to review a facility’s groundwater
monitoring reports if the contaminants are not considered to be signifi-
cant. However, if a facility is identified as a potential source of contami-
nation for drinking wa.ter, the states may require the owner/operator to
study the extent and source of contamination and, if necessary, to take
corrective action.




Page 39                                     GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                                              Chapter 4
                                              Groundwater    Monitoring   at Indumial
                                              Facilities in Two States
                                              Reveals Contamination




     ,
                                               Of the 112 facilities with groundwater monitoring, state officials
Grtoundwater                                  reported that data indicated contamination at 68, or 61 percent, of these
M ’ nitoring Reveals                           facilities. At 32-or 29 percent of the 112-facilities, the known or sus-
CJ ,ntamination                               petted source of the contamination was an industrial landfill, surface
                                              impoundment, or construction/demolition debris landfill. At the other 36
                                              facilities (32 percent) with contamination, either another source on or
                                              near the facility-such     as a hazardous waste management unit, under-
                                              ground storage tank, or adjacent facility was the known or suspected
                                              source of contamination-or       the source of contamination was not
                                              known, according to state officials. (See fig. 4.1.) At the 32 facilities
                                              where a nonhazardous waste landfill or surface impoundment was the
                                              known or suspected source, the state was taking or planning to take a
                                              variety of actions, ranging from continuing to review groundwater moni-
                                              toring reports to requiring cleanup. In addition, 18 of the 32 facilities
                                              were believed to pose a moderate to great threat to groundwater,
                                              according to state officials. The results of groundwater monitoring at
                                              industrial facilities and the officials’ belief that many of these facilities
                                              pose a moderate to great threat to groundwater confirms EPA'S finding,
                                              discussed in chapter 2, that there are indications that these facilities do
                                              pose environmental threats.


Figure 4.1: Results of Groundwater
Morrltorlng at 112 Industrial Facllltleo in
California and New Jersey                                                               Contamination by Another Source




                                                                                        No Groundwater Contamination




                                                                                        Contamination by Landfill or Surface
                                                                                        Impoundment




                                              Page 40                                       GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
        .
                                       Chapter 4
                                       Groundwater    Monitorlug   at Industrial
                                       Facilities in Two States
                                       Reveals Contamination




State .&ctions to Address              At the 32 facilities where a nonhazardous waste landfill or surface
       s of Groundwater                impoundment was the known or suspected source of the contaminated
                                       groundwater, the states were (1) implementing corrective action, (2)
                                       planning to implement corrective action, (3) studying or planning to
                                       study the source or extent of such contamination, or (4) continuing to
                                       review the facility’s groundwater monitoring reports, according to state
                                       officials. These 32 facilities (11 in California and 2 1 in New Jersey) were
                                       handling diverse types of wastes from the processing and manufactur-
                                       ing of food, chemicals, rubber, paper, paint, metals, and construction/
                                       demolition debris. Of these 32 facilities, 20 involved surface impound-
                                       ments, 4 industrial landfills, 3 demolition debris landfills, and 6 facilities
                                       with both an industrial or construction/demolition debris landfill and
                                       surface impoundments.

                                       As shown in table 4.1, 18 of the 32 facilities, or over half, were believed
                                       to pose a moderate to great threat to groundwater. In making these judg-
                                       ments, we asked state and regional board officials to consider the vol-
                                       ume and type of waste, the facility’s design and operating controls, and
                                       hydrogeological conditions. In addition, some officials also considered
                                       the actual or potential use for the groundwater. For example, three of
                                       the five facilities considered to pose a great threat to groundwater had
                                       either affected groundwater or potentially threatened groundwater used
                                       for drinking or agricultural purposes.

Table  4.1: The Level of Threat to
Qround+ter From Contamination by       Level of threat                             California            New Jersey             Total
Landfill? or Surface Impoundments in   Little to no                                         2                      0                2
Californ~s and New Jersey
                                       Some                                                 2                     10               12
                                       Moderate                                             4                      9               13   .
                                       Great                                                3                      2                5
                                       Very great                                           0                      0                0
                                       Total-                                              11                    21                32


                                       At 15 of the 32 facilities, the states were in the process of requiring
                                       either further study of the contamination or corrective action. Of these
                                       15 facilities, 13 involved surface impoundments and 2 involved con-
                                       struction/demolition debris landfills. Their level of threat to ground-
                                       water ranged from little to no threat to great. State officials reported
                                       they were taking actions at these facilities for several reasons: (1) the
                                       contamination had impaired or threatened groundwater uses and (2)
                                       results showed that standards had been exceeded to the extent that the
                                       facility posed a moderate or great threat to groundwater. For example,



                                       Page 41                                                  GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
                          Chapter 4
                          Groundwater    Monitoring   at Industrial
                          Facilities in Two States
                          Reveals Contamination




-*
                          at a California paper manufacturer, the regional board was working
                          with the facility, considered to pose a moderate threat, to lower the level
                          of total dissolved solids2 leaking from an unlined surface impoundment
                          located on sandy soil, according to the responsible regional engineer. At
                          a New Jersey facility considered to pose some threat, the state informed
                          the facility owner/operator in May 1989 that the construction/demoli-
                          tion debris landfill may be contaminating groundwater and directed the
                          owner/operator to study the cause and extent of contamination. In the
                          previous 2 years, groundwater monitoring reports had repeatedly
                          shown that standards for the amounts of hazardous and nonhazardous
                          wastes in the groundwater were being exceeded. The standards for arse-
                          nic and lead, hazardous waste constituents, were being exceeded
                          between 2 to 4 times, while the standards for nonhazardous waste con-
                          stituents (such as sulfate, iron, sodium, ammonia, and total dissolved
                          solids) were being exceeded in some cases by hundreds of times.

                          At the other 17 facilities, the states were continuing to review ground-
                          water monitoring reports to identify any significant changes or trends
                          that would warrant further action. Fourteen of these facilities were in
                          New Jersey and 3 were in California. Of the 17 facilities, 7 involved sur-
                          face impoundments, 4 industrial landfills, 1 construction/demolition
                          debris landfill, and 6 facilities with both a surface impoundment and an
                          industrial or construction/demolition debris landfill. Their level of
                          threat to groundwater ranged from little to no threat to a moderate
                          threat. Officials said they were continuing to monitor these facilities
                          because the monitoring reports were inconclusive as to whether a prob-
                          lem existed at the facility.


Nonhazardous Wastes Can   At three facilities with contaminated groundwater, state officials told us
Contaminate Groundwater   that wastes, such as sodium and chlorides, which are unlikely to be reg-
                          ulated as hazardous, had not only degraded groundwater quality but
and Impair Its Uses       had also impaired or threatened groundwater uses. At two facilities con-
                          sidered to pose a great threat to groundwater, nonhazardous wastes had
                          rendered groundwater unusable for drinking by adversely affecting its
                          taste or for agricultural purposes by reducing the productivity of lands
                          irrigated with the water. Nonhazardous waste from a third facility
                          threatens groundwater flowing in the direction of a nearby residential
                          subdivision that depends upon groundwater as a drinking water source.


                          2Total dissolved solids are the solid waste particles that have dissolved in water and are usually
                          associated with the palatability of water, according to w EPA drinking water official.



                          Page 42                                                      GAO/RCED-99-92      Nonhazardous    Waste
     Chaptmr 4
    Groundwamr Monitoring at Industrial
    Facilities in Two states
/   Reveals Cmtmdmtion




    At the first facility, New Jersey officials strongly suspect unlined sur-
    face impoundments at an inorganic chemical plant as the source of con-
    taminated groundwater that has affected two nearby drinking water
    wells. State officials suspect the facility because it is the only industry
    in an otherwise rural area. The contamination was initially identified
    through samples taken from the facility’s groundwater monitoring wells.
    These samples revealed excess levels of nonhazardous waste constitu-
    ents (sodium, chloride, sulfate, and total dissolved solids). Later, the
    state learned that the contamination had probably migrated off-site and
    affected at least two nearby wells, For one of the affected wells, the
    facility owner/operator is voluntarily purifying water for this property
    owner whose well, which is across the street from the facility, was
    found to have similar contaminants. In early 1989, the state learned that
    a new drinking water well drilled approximately l/2-mile from the facil-
    ity showed similar contamination. The state is requiring the company to
    further investigate the facility’s contamination, and using the results of
    this study, the state will decide what cleanup action will be required. In
    addition, the state is planning to require that liners made of material
    with very low permeability be placed underneath the facility’s unlined
    surface impoundments.

    At the second facility, nonhazardous wastes (chlorides and total dis-
    solved solids) from two unlined surface impoundments at a California
    meat processing plant have contaminated shallow groundwater that
    supplies many private drinking water wells and irrigation wells. These
    unlined surface impoundments cover 8.2 acres and are located in sandy
    soil. The contamination was first identified in February 1986 through a
    nearby homeowner’s complaint about the deteriorating taste of well
    water. At that time, the facility was not required to monitor ground-
    water. A subsequent state investigation revealed that the facility was
    not in compliance with its operating license. For instance, these surface
    impoundments received brine wastes in an amount 2-l/2 times the
    amount authorized.

    As of January 1990, the contamination has affected 10 nearby drinking
    water wells, which the regional board required the facility to replace,
    and farther away, the contamination is threatening the water supply of
    a mobile home park where 300 people live. In addition, three agricul-
    tural irrigation wells have been contaminated. As a result, the produc-
    tivity of an apple orchard and a vineyard may have been diminished.
    Two of the three wells have been closed and replaced with deeper wells.
    The regional board is still determining if the third irrigation well should
    also be replaced. The company’s comptroller estimates that the cost of


    Page 43                                     GAO/RCED-99-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
Chapter 4
Groundwater    Monitoring   at Industrial
Facilities in Two States
Reveals Contamination




replacing these 13 wells is $126,000. While a long-term remedial action
is being determined, interim measures to clean up the contaminated
groundwater are underway. The facility is blending polluted and unpol-
luted groundwater and discharging it into surface water. For a long-term
disposal alternative, the facility is planning to change its waste disposal
method and inject wastewater and polluted groundwater into deep wells
located below the groundwater that is used as a drinking water source.
The company’s controller estimates the total cost of cleanup and the
new injection disposal system will be about $2.5 million.

At the third facility, groundwater had been contaminated by two
unlined surface impoundments holding ammonia-nitrogen, nitrate nitro-
gen, sulfate, and total dissolved solids. This contamination was identi-
fied through samples taken from the facility’s groundwater monitoring
wells. As of April 1989, the contaminated groundwater was not known
to have affected any groundwater uses, but the responsible state geolo-
gist said the facility’s contamination posed a great threat because the
groundwater flows in the direction of a residential subdivision located
about l/2-mile from the facility. This subdivision relies upon ground-
water as a source for drinking water. The state plans to require some
type of cleanup at the facility after a study of the contamination is
completed.




Page 44                                     GAO/RCED-90-92   Nonhazardous   Waste
.




    Page 46   GAO/RCED-90-92Nonhazardous Waste
Ap@ndix I

Major Contributors to This Report


                        Peter F. Guerrero, Associate Director
Rqsources,              Patricia D. Moore, Assistant Director
C@nmunity, and          Chester F. Janik, Assignment Manager
                        Cathy L. Helm, Evaluator-in-Charge
Edonomic                Mary D. Pniewski, Senior Evaluator
Dkvelopment Division,   Carol Herrnstadt Shulman, Reports Analyst
Wbhington, D.C.
                        Doris Jensen, Site Senior
S&-tFrancisco
Rdgional
 ,       Office

Eiladelphia
Office




            Y




(08B4t34)               Page 46                                     GAO/RCED-90-92Nonhazardous Waste