The size of the hazardous waste problem in the U.S. remains unknown
because EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has failed to
maintain a proper list, according to a study released Jan. 15, 1988, by
the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of
Under the federal Superfund law, EPA is supposed to maintain an
inventory of all sites where hazardous materials are being stored,
treated, or disposed of, or where such materials have been released in
According to GAO, as of August, 1987, the EPA had only 27,200 sites on
the list but GAO says information from EPA and other federal agencies
indicates that the list should include somewhere between 130,340 and
GAO published a similar evaluation of EPA's efforts to identify
hazardous waste sites back in 1985. At that time, GAO found EPA's list
was missing somewhere between 130,000 and 378,000 sites.
The EPA list is known as CERCLIS (Comprehensive Environmental Response
Compensation and Liability Information System); it is named for the
Superfund law, which is formally known as the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
The 1988 GAO report strongly criticized EPA for failing to provide
states with adequate funding or technical assistance to identify sites
themselves. EPA did provide $10 million to states to find sites in
1983, but has not provided funding since then, even though the 1984
amendments to RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act)
specifically gave EPA funds for that purpose.
"CERCLIS is becoming more a reflection of the amount of money EPA has
allocated to site assessment" than an "accurate picture of the
hazardous waste problem" in the U.S., GAO said.
Without a complete inventory of the nation's potential hazardous waste
sites, the GAO report concludes, Congress cannot be "fully informed
about the amount of work facing EPA and the states" and thus cannot
accurately determine the "level of resources that should be allocated
to the Superfund program."
The report criticized EPA for failing to establish criteria by which
EPA's regional offices, and the states, should use to determine whether
a site belongs on the CERCLIS list or not.
The GAO report, entitled, "Superfund: Extent of the Nation's Potential
Hazardous Waste Problem Still Unknown [GAO/RCED88-44]," is free from:
GAO, Box 6015 Gaithersburg, MD 20877; phone (202) 2756241.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TRY TO FORCE CAREFUL CHEMICAL USE
Connecticut is putting indirect pressure on users of hazardous
materials, to make them be more careful. Connecticut's Industrial
Transfer Law requires any business selling property to notify the buyer
and the state Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in Hartford
about any wastes that are, or were, stored on-site, or, if the site is
contaminated, to clean up the site on a EPD-approved schedule. Failure
to notify the seller or the EPD about on-site wastes, or providing
false information about contamination at the site, makes the seller
liable for cleanup costs and for a penalty of up to $100,000. The
Connecticut law covers all sellers who generate, transport or dispose
of over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of hazardous materials per month.
The Connecticut law was passed in 1985 and was amended, effective
October 1, 1987, to apply to any sites where hazardous materials have
been used at any time since April 30, 1967.
New Jersey has an even more comprehensive property transfer law called
ECRA (Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act) which says industrial
property cannot be sold until it has been inspected and certified clean
by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Failure to comply
with ECRA invalidates a sale. The ECRA law is unpopular among
industrialists in NJ because the state has not been able to inspect
properties in a timely fashion, thus causing many delays in property
transfers. The law is being amended, some fear gutted, now in the state
Ocean County, New Jersey, has passed a local version of ECRA to cover
residential property. As a result of groundwater contamination by Ciba-
Geigy and other polluters in Ocean County, the county government now
requires any residential property to have its water supply tested
before it can be sold.
For further information on the Connecticut law, contact Jack Gelting,
Connecticut Environmental Protection Department, 165 Capitol Ave.,
Hartford, CT 06106; phone (203) 566-5473. For a copy of NJ's ECRA law,
contact the Secretary of State, 125 West State St., Trenton, NJ 08625;
phone (609) 984-1900. The Ocean County law is available from County
Clerk, Ocean County Administration Building, CN 2191, Toms River, NJ
08754; phone (201) 244-2121; ask for the law requiring water testing
prior to sale of residential properties.
WHISTLEBLOWING: SOME DO, SOME DON'T; THOSE WHO DO ARE FIRED
Two health physicists who complained to authorities about the safety of
a nuclear reactor at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta) have
been fired. The day they were fired, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
issued the second of two reports saying current management of the
reactor is improper and may pose a threat to workers and the public. A
reactor operator contaminated himself and the reactor building with
radioactive cadmium Aug. 18, 1988. [NY TIMES Feb. 14, 1988, pg. 28.]
A former research scientist for Liggett & Myers (L&M) testified in
federal court in mid-February that the cigarette manufacturer told him
in the mid-1950s and early 60s not to publish results showing a link
between smoking and lung cancer.
Dr. Mold, who was assistant research director for L&M when he left the
firm in 1984, also testified that the company had developed cigarettes
in the '70s that eliminated many cancer-causing substances, but didn't
market the product. Dr. Jeffrey Harris testified that L&M didn't market
the safer cigarette because the company feared it would be an admission
that it had already sold millions of dangerous cigarettes. [NY TIMES
Feb. 14, 1988, pg. 43.]
Descriptor terms: regulation; ct; nj; remedial action; ecra; epa; sara;
siting; monitoring; gao; inventories; comprehensive environmental
response compensation and liability information system; investigations;
cercla; rcra; risk assessment; congress; whistle blowing; nuclear
power; radiation; nuclear regulatory commission; occupational safety
and health; ligett & meyers; tobacco; cancer; lung cancer; jeffery