Environmental Cleanup:

Better Communication Needed for Dealing with Formerly Used Defense Sites in Guam

GAO-02-423: Published: Apr 11, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 2002.

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Chemical testing kits from World War II containing diluted mustard gas and other chemicals have been discovered on Guam. The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for identifying and cleaning up contaminated military sites throughout the United States and its territories. In the mid-1990s, DOD scaled back its identification efforts nationally and focused its attention on Guam. It now relies on referrals from the Guam Environmental Protection Agency and on incidental discovery during construction and other operational activities. Stakeholders had three concerns about the Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to identify and address contamination on former defense sites. First, they were uncertain about the Corps' process for adding potentially contaminated locations to its Guam inventory. Second, some locations containing debris, such as metal and tires, were excluded even though the waste was caused by DOD and could place a financial burden on the owner to remove it. Third, stakeholders were concerned about the slow pace of funding for the program. Between fiscal years 1984 and 2000, only four percent of the total expected cost of cleaning up these locations had been funded in Guam, compared with 16 percent nationwide.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's (DOD) management of the process for identifying contamination on formerly used defense sites in Guam, the Secretary of the Department of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Department of the Army to develop written guidelines for stakeholders in Guam to use when referring locations of suspected contamination to the Corps. The Army should also identify the information that stakeholders should include when making such referrals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed and distributed a brochure of information that, among other things, describes the information needed when referring a location of possible contamination to the Corps. The brochure is available at public meetings and made available at other locations, including Guam EPA offices.

    Recommendation: To improve stakeholders' overall understanding of DOD's restoration program on formerly used defense sites in Guam, the Secretary of the Department of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Department of the Army to improve efforts to communicate with stakeholders in Guam to better inform them about policies and procedures for stakeholders to use when referring potential locations to the Corps and the actions of the Corps plans to take on the referrals it receives. One way to do this would be to establish a restoration advisory board for formerly used defense sites in Guam.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2005, the Corps of Engineers adopted a Public Involvement Plan for environmental contamination on formerly used defense sites (FUDS) in Guam. This plan is intended to promote two-way communication between the Corps and stakeholders. The plan includes a list of the 52 known formerly used defense sites in Guam. It also includes a description of the process the Corps uses to determination if a site is eligible for inclusion in the formerly used defense site program and, if it is, how the Corps determines the cleanup needed.

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