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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
At a Glance
September 28, 2020
Why We Did This Project
We performed this evaluation to
determine whether the
U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency managed its resources
for emergency responses to
provide continued protection of
human health and the
environment during the
coronavirus pandemic—that is,
the SARS-CoV-2 virus and
resultant COVID-19 disease.
We also sought to examine
whether the EPA provided
sufficient protective measures to
its on-scene coordinators, or
OSCs, who respond to
emergency incidents.
We sent surveys to 239 OSCs
in June 2020 and received
responses from 127—a
53 percent response rate. We
also interviewed all ten EPA
regional Superfund and
Emergency Management
Division directors, as well as
directors from the EPA's Office
of Emergency Management.
This report addresses the
•	Cleaning up and revitalizing
This report addresses a top EPA
management challenge:
•	Maintaining operations during
pandemic and natural disaster
Address inquiries to our public
affairs office at (202) 566-2391 or
List of OIG reports.
EPA Has Sufficiently Managed Emergency Responses
During the Pandemic but Needs to Procure More
Supplies and Clarify Guidance
What We Found
EPA regions sufficiently protected human OSCs may not be safe deploying
health and the environment by responding to during the pandemic without
emergencies or assisting in emergency	sufficient personal protective
responses during the coronavirus pandemic. equipment and clear guidance.
In addition, the Agency took some initial
measures to protect OSCs. For example, starting in March 2020, when the EPA
began adjusting its operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Agency
reviewed its ongoing and time-critical emergency responses, delaying responses
when possible to do so without further detriment to public health or the
environment. Also, some OSCs who normally would have been deployed were
instead able to work remotely with state and local responders to verify that the
emergency responses were adequate. The OSCs who responded to our survey,
however, expressed concerns that the EPA did not provide sufficient protective
measures or effectively manage its emergency responses:
•	About half reported that the coronavirus pandemic impacted their ability to
respond to emergencies. Some cited delays in procuring personal protective
equipment and cleaning supplies, while some said there were delays due to
the additional time needed to obtain approval for deployment.
•	All said that the EPA did not provide COVID-19 tests to them before or after
•	Although almost all indicated that they were familiar with the EPA's health
and safety guidance, some said that they had issues complying with the
guidance, and some said that they needed clarifications on the guidance.
OSCs and management sometimes had different observations. For example,
regional Superfund and Emergency Management Division directors said that
personal protective equipment and other supplies were provided to OSCs. These
directors also told us about the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on the
Agency's impending emergency responses. Specifically, a director in one western
region stated that the region may be unable to respond to large incidents because
of a lack of N95 masks, which the region deems necessary for wildfire responses.
Recommendations and Planned Agency Corrective Actions
We recommend that the EPA implement a strategy to provide necessary personal
protective equipment and cleaning supplies to OSCs, including N95 masks;
develop communications mechanisms to address OSCs' safety concerns; clarify
its pandemic guidance; and provide COVID-19 tests to OSCs being deployed.
The Agency agreed with one recommendation but disagreed with the other three.