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Us Gao Federal Prison Hazardous Waste 1990

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GAO

Ikport to ttw Cl~airrnan, Sulmmcunittett~:
on Govwnnwnt InI’orrnation, ,Justicc,
and Agriculture, Chnrnit~tee on
Government, Operations, House of’
IZepntsont,atives
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HAZARDOUS WASTE

Efforts to Address
Problems at Federal
Prisons
3

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

United States
General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548
Resources, Community, and
Economic Development Division

B-240638
August 30,199O

The Honorable Robert E. Wise, Jr.
Chairman, Subcommitteeon Government
Information, Justice, and Agriculture
Committee on GovernmentOperations
Houseof Representatives
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On January 24, 1990,your office asked us to provide information on
actions taken by the Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice, to
resolve weaknessesin managing hazardousmaterials and wastes. Specifically, this report provides information on the Bureau’s (1) assessment and cleanup of prison dump sites containing hazardouswastes and
(2) other hazardousmaterial and waste projects, including removal and/
or abatement of asbestosand Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PUBS) from
prison facilities. As requestedby your office, this report also provides
information on the scopeand status of an audit, performed by Justice’s
Office of the Inspector General,of the Bureau’s handling of hazardous
materials currently used and hazardouswastes currently generatedat
its facilities.

Results in Brief

Between October 1,1986, and June 28,1990, the Bureau obligated about
$167,000to assessthe extent of contamination at its waste disposal sites
and to provide information neededfor cleanup actions. Thesefunds
were obligated for assessmentsat four of the sevenfacilities previously
identified as containing hazardouswaste dump sites. Although the
Bureau has set aside about $16 million for cleanup that may be needed,
this work will not begin until the Bureau completesits assessmentsat
the sevenfacilities. Bureau officials acknowledgethat the delays the
Bureau has experiencedin awarding assessmentcontracts could causeit
to miss its scheduledcleanup completion date of September30, 1992, by
a year or more.
Between October 1, 1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau obligated about
$6.7 million for other hazardousmaterial and waste projects, primarily
for asbestosremoval and/or abatement activities. According to Bureau
officials, the asbestosand PCBS that created potential health risks to
Bureau inmates and staff have been removed and/or abated. However,
these officials told us that as older Bureau facilities are renovated in the
future, additional asbestosabatement and removal may be necessary.

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5240528

Officials at the Office of the Inspector Generaltold us, however, that
their recent audit of the Bureau’s handling of hazardousmaterials and
wastes revealed that the Bureau is not fully complying with certain
applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)regulations and Bureau policies and procedures,Theseofficials told us that
although the casesof noncomplianceessentially involve informational
and record-keepingrequirements, this noncompliancerepresentsa
weaknessin the Bureau’s internal control system, which could adversely
affect its ability to properly managehazardousmaterials and wastes.
These findings and a number of recommendationsto improve the
Bureau’s handling of hazardous materials and wastes will be presented
in the Inspector General’saudit report, which is scheduledfor release
during the summer of 1990.

Background

The Bureau of Prisons was establishedto fulfill the federal government’s responsibility for taking custody and care of prisoners charged
with or convicted of violating federal laws. Currently, the Bureau has 6
regional offices and 64 penal institutions nationwide that house about
66,000 prisoners.
Since 1934, federal prisoners have beenemployed in prison factories to
produce goodsand servicesthat are sold to other federal agencies.
Examples of goodsproduced include furniture, clothing, mattresses,
towels, brushes, electronics, and signs.Examples of servicesinclude
data entry and furniture refinishing.
In the past, many prison factory by-products, such as solvents, thinners,
and paint, were discarded in dumps on Bureau lands. Further, many
Bureau facilities contain asbestospipe insulation and electric equipment
that contain PCBS. Becauseof the serious environmental and health risks
associatedwith asbestos,PCBS, and hazardouswastes, these materials
and wastes must be handled and, if necessary,dump sites cleanedup, in
accordancewith federal and state requirements established by laws
enactedin the 1970sand early 1980s.
In its fiscal year 1987 report on internal controls, the Bureau stated that
it would addresspotentially hazardousconditions that were revealed at
its facilities by several internal reviews. Specifically, the reviews, completed since fiscal year 1986, revealed that several Bureau institutions
contained potentially hazardouswaste disposal sites and/or asbestos
and FCBS that required cleanup, removal and/or abatement.According to

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the fiscal year 1987 report, the hazardousconditions could endangerthe
health and safety of prison staff and inmates.
In responseto these findings, the Bureau beganconducting assessments
and developing action plans to confirm the extent of the hazardous conditions and to identify the actions neededto correct them. In addition,
the Bureau requestedJustice’s Office of the Inspector Generalto conduct a nationwide audit to determine if the Bureau is handling hazardous materials and wastes in compliancewith OSHA
regulations and
Bureau policies and procedures.

Actions to Address
Problems at Dump
Sites

In fiscal year 1987,the Bureau established a program to assessand
clean up hazardouswastes at its dump sites. The assessmentswould
involve taking groundwater and soil samplesfrom sites previously identified as containing hazardouswastes and then analyzing them to confirm the extent of the hazardousconditions and to provide information
neededfor cleanup actions. The Bureau established a targeted cleanup
completion date of September30,1992, for its program.
BetweenOctober 1,1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau obligated
$166,693 for assessmentsat four of the sevenfacilities previously identified as containing hazardouswaste dump sites. Of this amount,
$96,649 was obligated for taking and analyzing groundwater and soil
samplesat three facilities and the remaining $60,044 was obligated for
preparatory work neededat the fourth facility before assessmentwork
could begin, According to Bureau officials, pending Environmental Protection Agency agreement,further assessmentsmay not be neededat a
fifth facility becauseinitial surveys revealed relatively low levels of
hazardouswastes. No assessmentshave started at the remaining two
facilities. Bureau officials stated that major new construction projects
and staff turnover have causeddelays in the assessments.For example,
all assessmentcontracts have not been awarded despite original plans
for them to be awarded by September30, 1989. According to these officials, the remaining contracts should be awarded by early November
1990.
Although the Bureau has set aside $16,020,000for cleanup, it will not
begin this work until the assessmentshave beencompleted.According to
Bureau officials, the delays in the assessmentsmight causethe Bureau
to miss its scheduledcleanup completion date of September30, 1992,by
a year or more. Bureau officials also told us that the Bureau will continue to monitor the dump sites after the cleanup has beencompleted.
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B.240638

Other Hazardous
Materials and Waste
Projects

PCB
PCBS
PCBs

Between October 1,1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau obligated
abatement and removal activities. Of
$6,692,962for asbestosand
this amount, $6,398,066was obligated for asbestosabatement,removal,
and training activities at most of the Bureau’s facilities. The remaining
$294,896 was obligated for removing
from sevenfacilities.
According to Bureau officials, in fiscal year 1990,the remaining
asbestosand
that posedhealth risks to staff and inmates were
removed and/or abated. However, these officials told us that as older
Bureau facilities are renovated in the future, additional abatement and
removal may be necessary.
BetweenOctober 1, 1986, and June 28, 1990,the Bureau also obligated
$38,447 for four other miscellaneoushazardouswaste projects. Of this
amount, $20,913 was obligated for removing old chemicals,batteries,
and other contaminants stored at two of its facilities. The remaining
$17,634 was obligated for constructing short-term storage areas at two
other facilities for currently generatedhazardouswastes.

Office of the Inspector
General’s Hazardous
Materials and Waste
Audit

The Office of Inspector Generalrecently completed an audit of the
Bureau’s handling of hazardousmaterials currently used and hazardous
wastes currently generatedat Bureau facilities. According to officials
with the Office of the Inspector General,the audit evaluated the
Bureau’s compliancewith applicable
regulations and Bureau policies and procedures.In addition, the audit was performed to identify
potential improvements in the Bureau’s policies and proceduresfor
managing and handling hazardousmaterials and wastes. The audit was
conducted at the Bureau’s central office and at four penal institutions in
four regions.

OSHA

OSHA

According to the Regional Inspector General and the Auditor-in-Charge
of the review, the audit revealed several instancesof noncompliance
with
regulations and Bureau policies and procedures.According to
these officials, although the casesof noncomplianceprimarily involved
informational and record-keepingrequirements, this noncompliancerepresents a weaknessin the Bureau’s internal controls and could adversely
affect its ability to properly managehazardousmaterials and wastes.
The audit report is scheduledto be releasedin the summer of 1990 and
will contain a number of recommendationsto overcomethese complianceproblems and improve the Bureau’s handling of hazardousmaterials and wastes.

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B240628

To obtain information on the Bureau’s handling of hazardousmaterials
and wastes, we spoke with and obtained documentsfrom officials on the
Department of Justice’s Managementand Planning Staff and with the
Bureau of Prisons’ Department of Safety and Office of Facilities Development and Operations.Somedata, such as the obligation figures, were
basedon Bureau documentsand were adjusted as a result of our discussions with Bureau officials. As requestedby your office, we did not
independently verify the accuracy of agencydocumentsor statements
provided to us. To determine the scopeand status of the Inspector General’s audit of the Bureau’s compliancewith hazardousmaterial and
waste regulations and procedures,we spoke with and obtained documents from headquarters and field officials with the Office of the
Inspector General.
We conductedour review between February and June 1990.As
requested,we did not obtain official agencycommentson this report.
However, we discussedthe contents of this report with officials of the
Bureau and Justice’s Office of the Inspector General,who generally
agreedwith the facts as presented.
Unless you publicly announceits contents earlier, we plan no further
distribution of this report until 30 days from the date of this letter. At
that time, we will make copiesavailable to the Attorney General,
Department of Justice; the Director, Bureau of Prisons, Department of
Justice; the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; the
Director, Office of Managementand Budget; and other interested
parties.
If you have any questions about this report, pleasecontact me on (202)
276-6111.Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix II.
Sincerely yours,

Richard L. Hembra
Director, Environmental Protection
Issues

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Bureau of Prisons’ Obligations for Hazardous
Materials and Waste Projects, October 1,1986 June Z&l990
Project description

Obligations

Assessments at dump sites
Asbestos abatement, removal, and training
PCB removal
Other miscellaneous projects

$156,693
6,398,066
294,896
38,447

Total

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$6.888.102

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.

Appendix II

Major Contributors to This l&port

Resources,
Community, and
Economic
Development Division,
Washington, DC.

(160084)

Ed Kratzer, Assistant Director
Gregory A. Kosarin, Evaluator-in-Charge

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Hazardout~ Wade at Federal Prhna

 

 

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