EPA needs to improve monitoring of Missouri toxic waste site

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A review by the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency reveals deficiencies in safety testing at a Superfund hazardous waste site in Wheeling, Mo. The 200—acre Wheeling site operated until 1986 as a toxic waste site for pesticides, asbestos, leather tanning sludge, and waste from laboratories, batteries and cyanide.

The report found that testing labs were inadvertently using incorrect and outdated surface water standards when analyzing results from Wheeling. EPA managers could not ensure that labs were testing with enough precision to pick up accurate levels of contaminants, which even in miniscule amounts may pose a health risk. In addition, the past two five-year reviews by EPA managers failed to account for high levels of aluminum and iron in the ground water at the site.

Due to increased wildlife and hunting near the site, the inspector general also called for an ecological risk assessment to determine the environmental impact on plants and animals on the Wheeling site.

The EPA regional office responsible for monitoring the site “needs to improve its oversight of the responsible party’s long-term monitoring activities to ensure protection of human health and the environment into the future,” the report said.

Cleanup efforts at the site that began in 1989 include upgrades of landfill covers and long—term monitoring of ground water and surface water. Ground water contamination is of particular concern at the site, as runoff to creeks and tributaries on the Wheeling site eventually flow into the Missouri River, just two miles south.

“If incorrect standards continue to be used, or results are not properly analyzed, excess levels of contaminants could migrate offsite,” the inspector general warned.

FAST FACT: Superfund sites are designated areas with uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste which can potentially affect local ecosystems or people. The EPA inspector general is reviewing Superfund sites that were considered stable and taken off the agency’s list of potentially dangerous sites. The cost of doing a follow—up review similar to the Wheeling site is $654,653.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.

NATIONAL SECURITY

* Pentagon officials did not properly validate contractor overcharges for a $1.8 billion contract with Northrop Grumman to develop a maritime surveillance system, part of a program worth $19 billion. Officials failed to review 39 contractor bills worth $329.3 million. The inspector general is requesting improved oversight of the contract. (OIG Department of Defense)

* Body armor worth $434 million in military contracts were found to have inadequate testing. Ballistic testing of the body armor vests could only provided limited assurance that the contract requirements dictate. Out of the vest components produced from six different contracts, 75 percent lacked quality inspection records. (OIG Department of Defense)

HEALTH

* An audit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals it lost or misplaced $8.2 million worth of government property since 2007. The CDC failed to properly barcode new property and understated the values of property. The agency has had continuing problems with property accountability, failing to implement inspector general recommendations made back in 1995. (OIG Department of Health and Human Services )

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