If anyone was questioning whether or not the US Senate should authorize and appropriate $150 million annually for the cleanup of the Areas of Concern around the Great Lakes then they need to read the US Inspector General’s evaluation of the EPA’s cleanup plan. (Can someone please mail this to Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s office, please?) It becomes obvious very quickly that the largest impediment to success is the federal government’s failure to pay for it.
The IG says the federal government isn’t spending enough money on clean up efforts and forcing localities to cough up 35 percent matching funds is severely slowing progress. Because the EPA won’t even begin to look at a project until all the money is in the pot, public health is endangered. “Moreover, remediation will be conducted in the order that individual local governments and stakeholders can afford, rather than with regard to the risks posed to human health or the environment,” the IG writes.
Due to this system that puts public dollars ahead of human health, the IG estimates it will take more than 77 years to complete the clean up. I think we were working under the assumption it could be done in ten! The total cleanup cost as estimated by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration back in 2005, was $3.46 billion, but the IG finds that the EPA is unsure of the true cost or scope of the sediment remediation program.
The IG also calls EPA to task for not developing specific strategies and for poorly managing the clean ups. For example, the EPA hasn’t formally designated program offices responsible for each clean up. That is one of the recommendations the IG makes to the EPA to resolve this situation. However, the EPA refuses to designate site specific leadership making it impossible to hold anyone accountable.
The GLNPO refuted the IG report arguing that the GLLA is being well managed and is producing results even though it is chronically underfunded. The EPA stated that it believes the type of management framework recommended in the IG’s report would not increase the rate of progress.
The IG called the actions of EPA insufficient and unresolved.