Environmental Information: Agencywide Policies and Procedures Are Needed for EPA's Information Dissemination: RCED-98-245

September 1998
GAO Reports;9/24/1998, p1
Government Document
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has three projects under way to provide additional data to communities about releases of toxic chemicals from nearby manufacturing plants. Although these projects are not being designed to define comprehensively a specific community's risks, collectively, they would substantially expand the information available to communities, including data on facilities' history of compliance with environmental laws, the relative toxicity of chemical releases, and the dispersion of the releases to surrounding areas. However, each of these initiatives has a different scope and time frame for completion, and it could take years before the initiatives' full promise is realized. The availability to the public of certain data in the first of these projects was delayed because state and industry officials were concerned about the data's accuracy and how the public might interpret the information. Although data from the chemical inventory that are reported under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act could, for example, potentially help a citizen find out which chemicals are used at a nearby plant, public use has been limited. Much of the information has not been computerized to provide easy access and when it has, it has not been available in regional or national databases that permit comparisons among industries or geographical areas. Also, EPA lacks policies, procedures, and standards to govern key aspects of its projects to disseminate information.


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