• JL v
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
At a Glance
March 29, 2021
Why We Did This Audit
We audited the
U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency's oversight of
hazardous waste units closed
with waste in place to verify the
continued protection of human
health and the environment.
The Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act and corresponding
RCRA regulations establish
requirements pertaining to
hazardous waste treatment,
storage, or disposal facilities, or
TSDFs. TSDFs treat, store, or
dispose of hazardous waste in
management units, such as
landfills. When a RCRA unit
stops accepting waste, the
TSDF must clean close or close
and maintain the unit with waste
in place in accordance with
RCRA regulations. RCRA and
EPA policies call for each
permitted TSDF, including
RCRA units, to be inspected at
least once every two to three
years, depending on its
operational status.
This report addresses the
•	Cleaning up and revitalizing land.
•	Partnering with states and
other stakeholders.
This report addresses a top EPA
management challenge:
•	Overseeing states
implementing EPA programs.
•	Communicating risks.
•	Integrating and leading
environmental justice.
Address inquiries to our public
affairs office at (202) 566-2391 or
List of OIG reports.
EPA Does Not Consistently Monitor Hazardous
Waste Units Closed with Waste in Place or Track
and Report on Facilities That Fall Under the Two
Responsible Programs
What We Found
The EPA did not consistently verify the continued
protection of human health and the environment
at TSDFs with RCRA units that were closed with
hazardous waste in place. Specifically, almost
half (339 of 687, or 49.3 percent) of TSDFs with
RCRA units closed with waste in place were not
inspected at the frequency set by EPA policy.
EPA regional oversight of TSDF inspections by authorized states is also
inconsistent. Five of the ten EPA regions incorporate inspection commitments in
their annual state RCRA grant negotiations to verify that their authorized states
are complying with the inspection policy. Two regions have similar processes in
place, but their processes do not include all their states, and three regions do not
have any process in place to verify compliance. Because of the lack of
inspections, a hazardous waste leak from a compromised unit could go
undetected for years, with dire human health and environmental consequences.
For example, a leak that is not expeditiously detected could contaminate
groundwater, resulting in a loss of drinking water supply, high cleanup costs, and
human exposure to contaminants.
During our evaluation of units closed with waste in place, we observed some
issues with interactions between the RCRA and Superfund programs. EPA
oversight of RCRA units referred to the Superfund program and those deferred
back to the RCRA program is incomplete. The lack of procedures and the use of
differing facility identification numbers in the two programs have hindered the
EPA's tracking of facilities transferred between the two programs. As a result, it
is uncertain whether either program is appropriately managing RCRA units and
protecting human and environmental health.
Fifty-six RCRA Corrective Action facilities that were closed with waste in place
are also managed by the Superfund program. Ineffective EPA oversight of these
sites resulted in 42 possible conflicting and 126 double-counted accomplishment
milestones. Because these milestones are used to communicate site status to
the public, communities could be confused or misled as to the cleanup status of
the sites.
Recommendations and Planned Corrective Actions
We recommend that the assistant administrator for Land and Emergency
Management develop controls to improve oversight of RCRA units with waste in
place. Three of the six recommendations are resolved with corrective actions
pending, and resolution efforts are in progress for the other three.
The EPA's inspection
frequency of TSDFs with
RCRA units closed with
waste in place does not
meet the EPA's statutory
requirement or policy.