Environmental Contamination: Department of Defense Activities	 
Related to Trichloroethylene, Perchlorate, and Other Emerging	 
Contaminants (12-JUL-07, GAO-07-1042T). 			 
                                                                 
DOD defines emerging contaminants as chemicals or materials with 
(1) perceived or real threat to health or the environment and (2)
lack of published standards or a standard that is evolving or	 
being reevaluated. Two emerging contaminants--trichloroethylene  
(TCE) and perchlorate--are of particular concern to DOD because  
they have significant potential to impact people or DOD's	 
mission. TCE, a degreasing agent in metal cleaning which has been
used widely in DOD industrial and maintenance processes, has been
documented at low exposure levels to cause headaches and	 
difficulty concentrating. High-level exposure may cause 	 
dizziness, headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, cancer, and	 
possibly death. Similarly, perchlorate has been used by DOD,	 
NASA, and others in making, testing, and firing missiles and	 
rockets. It has been widely found in groundwater, surface water, 
and soil across the United States, Perchlorate health studies	 
have documented particular risks to fetuses of pregnant women.	 
GAO was asked for testimony to summarize its past work on	 
perchlorate-, TCE-, and defense-activities related to (1) the	 
state of knowledge about the emerging contaminants TCE and	 
perchlorate, (2) DOD responsibilities for managing TCE and	 
perchlorate contamination at its facilities, and (3) DOD	 
activities to address TCE and perchlorate contamination.	 
-------------------------Indexing Terms------------------------- 
REPORTNUM:   GAO-07-1042T					        
    ACCNO:   A72505						        
  TITLE:     Environmental Contamination: Department of Defense       
Activities Related to Trichloroethylene, Perchlorate, and Other  
Emerging Contaminants						 
     DATE:   07/12/2007 
  SUBJECT:   Base closures					 
	     Contaminants					 
	     Contamination					 
	     Environmental law					 
	     Environmental monitoring				 
	     Health hazards					 
	     Military facilities				 
	     Perchlorates					 
	     Pollution control					 
	     Risk assessment					 
	     Standards						 
	     Environmental cleanups				 

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GAO-07-1042T

   

     * [1]The State of Knowledge About TCE and Perchlorate

          * [2]EPA Has Established a Standard for TCE and Knowledge is Evol
          * [3]EPA Has Not Established a Standard for Perchlorate

     * [4]DOD's Responsibilities to Address Perchlorate and Other Emer
     * [5]DOD Is Taking Several Actions to Address TCE, Perchlorate, a

          * [6]DOD Recently Has Established a Mechanism for Addressing Emer
          * [7]DOD is Taking Actions to Address TCE
          * [8]DOD is Sampling For Perchlorate and Taking Cleanup Actions U

     * [9]Contacts and Acknowledgements
     * [10]Appendix I: Selected GAO Reports on Defense-related Hazardou

          * [11]Order by Mail or Phone

Testimony

Before the Subcommittee on Readiness, Committee on Armed Services, House
of Representatives

United States Government Accountability Office

GAO

For Release on Delivery
Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT
Thursday, July 12, 2007

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION

Department of Defense Activities Related to Trichloroethylene,
Perchlorate, and Other Emerging Contaminants

Statement of John B. Stephenson, Director
Natural Resources and Environment

GAO-07-1042T

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

We are pleased to be here to discuss our work on the Department of
Defense's (DOD) activities associated with emerging contaminants and the
cleanup of its hazardous waste sites. DOD defines emerging contaminants as
chemicals or materials characterized by (1) a perceived or real threat to
human health or environment and (2) a lack of published health standards
or a standard that is evolving or being reevaluated. DOD may also classify
a contaminant as "emerging" because of the discovery of a new source of
contamination, pathway to human exposure, or more-sensitive detection
method. Two emerging contaminants--trichloroethylene (TCE) and
perchlorate--are of particular concern to DOD because they have
significant potential to impact people or DOD's mission.

As we have previously reported,^1 DOD faces the daunting task of cleaning
up thousands of military bases and other installations across the country.
Many of these sites are contaminated with toxic and radioactive wastes in
soil, water, or containers such as underground storage tanks, ordnance and
explosives, and unsafe buildings. Identifying and investigating these
hazards will take decades, and cleanup will cost many billions of dollars.

In addition to the federal fiscal implications of the large cleanup costs,
defense-related contamination problems have economic consequences for
individual communities. Many of these formerly used defense sites are now
owned by states, local governments, and individuals and used for parks,
schools, farms, and homes. Of particular concern are military facilities
closed under DOD's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program that are
intended to be redeveloped for productive new uses and must generally be
cleaned up before conversion. Environmental cleanup is necessary for the
transfer of unneeded contaminated property, which becomes available as a
result of base closures and realignment.^2 Concerns have risen in recent
years within affected communities about the extent to which contamination
on these properties could delay or affect the potential for economic
redevelopment to replace jobs that were lost as a result of the base
closures. While most of the land on bases closed between 1988 and 1995 has
been cleaned up and transferred for redevelopment, some has been awaiting
cleanup and conversion for many years. Additional bases approved for
closure in the 2005 BRAC round will increase the inventory of military
properties slated for civilian reuse.

^1Appendix I provides a selected bibliography of recent GAO studies on
Defense-related hazardous waste issues.

^2When an installation becomes a BRAC action, the unneeded property is
reported as excess. Federal property disposal laws require DOD to first
screen excess property for possible reuse by defense and other federal
agencies. If no federal agency needs the property, it is declared surplus
and is made available to nonfederal parties, including state and local
agencies, local redevelopment authorities, and the public.

As you requested, my remarks today will focus on (1) the state of
knowledge about certain emerging contaminants of concern to the
Subcommittee--specifically TCE and perchlorate, (2) DOD's responsibilities
for managing emerging contaminants for which federal regulatory standards
do not exist, as is the case with perchlorate, and (3) DOD's activities to
address the emerging contaminants TCE and perchlorate contamination at its
facilities. To address these issues, we relied primarily on our May 2005
report and April 2007 testimony on perchlorate^3 and our May 2007 report
and June 2007 testimony on drinking water contamination problems at the
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (Camp Lejeune).^4 We also used information
from related GAO work on DOD cleanup issues^5 and examined recent data and
other information from DOD, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the states.

In summary, we found the following:

           o While TCE and perchlorate are both DOD-classified emerging
           contaminants, there are important distinctions in the extent to
           which they are regulated and in what is known about their effects
           on human health and the environment. TCE, a degreaser for metal
           parts that DOD has used widely for industrial and maintenance
           processes, has been found in underground water sources and many
           surface waters as a result of the manufacture, use, and disposal
           of the chemical. TCE has been shown to cause headaches and
           difficulty concentrating at low levels of exposure, whereas
           high-level exposure may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea,
           unconsciousness, cancer, and possibly death. As a consequence of
           these health risks from TCE ingestion, EPA adopted a TCE drinking
           water standard that became effective in 1989. However, health
           concerns over TCE have been further amplified in recent years as
           scientific studies have suggested additional risks posed by human
           exposure to TCE. In addition, ongoing study of the health affects
           associated with past exposures on Camp Lejeune may affect DOD's
           decision whether to settle or deny the pending health claims of
           former residents. Perchlorate, a primary ingredient in propellant
           used in the manufacture and firing of rockets and missiles, has
           been found in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, and soil
           across the United States. Health studies have shown that it can
           affect the thyroid gland, which helps to regulate the body's
           metabolism, and may cause developmental impairments in the fetuses
           of pregnant women. Unlike TCE, EPA has not set a regulatory
           standard limiting perchlorate in drinking water--a fact that has
           caused much discussion in Congress and elsewhere. Recent FDA data
           documenting extensive, low-level perchlorate contamination in the
           nation's food supply have further fueled the debate about the
           extent of perchlorate contamination and its health effects.
			  
^3GAO, Perchlorate: A System to Track Sampling and Cleanup Results is
Needed, [26]GAO-05-462 (Washington, D.C.: May 20, 2005) and GAO,
Perchlorate: EPA Does Not Systematically Track Incidents of Contamination,
[27]GAO-07-797T (Washington, D.C.: April 25, 2007).

^4GAO, Defense Health Care: Activities Related to Past Drinking Water
Contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, [28]GAO-07-276
(Washington, D.C.: May 11, 2007) and GAO, Issues Related to Past Drinking
Water Contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, [29]GAO-07-933T
(Washington, D.C.: June 12, 2007).

^5GAO, Military Base Closures: Opportunities Exist to Improve
Environmental Cleanup Cost Reporting and to Expedite Transfer of Unneeded
Property, [30]GAO-07-166 (Washington, D.C.: January 30, 2007).

           o While DOD has certain regulatory compliance responsibilities
           with regard to emerging contaminants such as TCE that are
           regulated by EPA or state governments, responsibilities are less
           definite for other emerging contaminants, such as perchlorate,
           that lack federal regulatory standards. In the absence of a
           federal regulatory standard, DOD's designation of perchlorate as
           an emerging contaminant indicates its concern about the
           significant potential impact the chemical has on people or the
           department's mission. That designation also has resulted in DOD
           deciding to take certain actions and cleanup efforts even without
           a federal requirement. While there is no nationwide perchlorate
           standard, DOD has taken steps to address perchlorate in individual
           cases in response to EPA regional or state agency actions under
           various environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act. For
           example, pursuant to its authority under the Clean Water Act's
           National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program,
           Texas required the Navy to reduce perchlorate levels in wastewater
           discharges at the McGregor Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant
           to 4 parts per billion (ppb), the lowest level at which
           perchlorate could be detected. Also, in the absence of a federal
           perchlorate standard, at least eight states have established
           nonregulatory action levels or advisories for perchlorate ranging
           from 1 ppb to 51 ppb. Nevada, for example, required the Kerr-McGee
           Chemical site in Henderson to treat groundwater and reduce
           perchlorate concentration releases to 18 ppb--Nevada's action
           level.
           o DOD is taking a number of actions to address emerging
           contaminants, including TCE and perchlorate. In 1979, EPA issued
           nonenforceable guidance establishing "suggested no adverse
           response levels" for TCE in drinking water. However, the guidance
           did not suggest actions that public water systems should take if
           TCE concentrations exceeded those values. Ten years later, EPA's
           drinking water standard for TCE of 5 ppb became effective. The new
           standard served as a regulatory basis for many DOD facilities to
           take concrete actions to control TCE. According to EPA's Region 4
           Superfund Director, for example, 46 sites at Camp Lejeune have
           since been identified for TCE cleanup. The Navy and EPA have
           selected remedies for 30 of those sites, and the remaining 16 are
           under active investigation. Regarding perchlorate, in the absence
           of a federal perchlorate standard, DOD adopted its own policies on
           sampling and cleanup--specifically a 2003 interim policy followed
           by a more comprehensive 2006 policy that required more aggressive
           sampling and, in some cases, cleanup. The 2006 policy applies
           broadly to DOD's active and closed installations and formerly used
           defense sites within the United States, its territories and
           possessions. It directs testing for perchlorate and certain other
           cleanup actions and directs DOD to comply with applicable federal
           or state promulgated standards, whichever is more stringent.
			  
			  The State of Knowledge About TCE and Perchlorate

           While TCE and perchlorate are both DOD-classified emerging
           contaminants, there are key distinctions between the contaminants
           that affect the extent to which they are regulated, and the
           information that may be needed before further steps are taken to
           protect human health and the environment. Since 1989, a maximum
           contaminant level (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act has been
           in place for TCE. In contrast, EPA has not adopted an MCL for
           perchlorate, although recent government-sponsored studies have
           raised concerns that even low-levels of exposure to perchlorate
           may pose serious risks to infants and fetuses of pregnant women.
			  
			  EPA Has Established a Standard for TCE and Knowledge is Evolving

           We provided details about EPA's evolving standards for TCE and the
           evolving knowledge of its health effects in our May 2007 report
           and June 2007 testimony on issues related to drinking water
           contamination on Camp Lejeune. TCE is a colorless liquid with a
           sweet, chloroform-like odor that is used mainly as a degreaser for
           metal parts. The compound is also a component in adhesives,
           lubricants, paints, varnishes, paint strippers, and pesticides. At
           one time, TCE was used as an extraction solvent for cosmetics and
           drug products and as a dry-cleaning agent; however, its use for
           these purposes has been discontinued. DOD has used the chemical in
           a wide variety of industrial and maintenance processes. More
           recently, the department has used TCE to clean sensitive computer
           circuit boards in military equipment such as tanks and fixed wing
           aircraft.

           Because TCE is pervasive in the environment, most people are
           likely to be exposed to TCE by simply eating, drinking, and
           breathing, according to the Department of Health and Human
           Services' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
           (ATSDR). Industrial wastewater is the primary source of release of
           TCE into water systems, but inhalation is the main route of
           potential environmental exposure to TCE. ATSDR has also reported
           that TCE has been found in a variety of foods, with the highest
           levels in meats, at 12 to 16 ppb, and U.S. margarine, at 440 to
           3,600 ppb. In fact, HHS's National Health and Nutrition
           Examination Survey (NHANES) suggested that approximately 10
           percent of the population had detectable levels of TCE in their
           blood.

           Inhaling small amounts of TCE may cause headaches, lung
           irritation, poor coordination, and difficulty concentrating,
           according ATSDR's Toxicological Profile. Inhaling or drinking
           liquids containing high levels of TCE may cause nervous system
           effects, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, or
           possibly death. ATSDR also notes that some animal studies suggest
           that high levels of TCE may cause liver, kidney, or lung cancer,
           and some studies of people exposed over long periods to high
           levels of TCE in drinking water or workplace air have shown an
           increased risk of cancer. ATSDR's Toxicological Profile notes that
           the National Toxicology Program has determined that TCE is
           "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" and the
           International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that
           TCE is probably carcinogenic to humans--specifically, kidney,
           liver and cervical cancers, Hodgkin's disease, and non-Hodgkin's
           lymphoma--based on limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans
           and additional evidence from studies in experimental animals.

           Effective in 1989, EPA adopted an MCL of 5 ppb of TCE in drinking
           water supplies pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act.^6 Despite
           EPA's regulation of TCE as a drinking water contaminant, concerns
           over serious long-term effects associated with TCE exposures have
           prompted additional scrutiny by both governmental and
           nongovernmental scientific organizations. For example, ATSDR
           initiated a public health assessment in 1991 to evaluate the
           possible health risks from exposure to contaminated drinking water
           on Camp Lejeune. The health concerns over TCE have been further
           amplified in recent years after scientific studies have suggested
           additional risks posed by human exposure to TCE. ATSDR is
           continuing to develop information about the possible long-term
           health consequences of these potential exposures in a subregistry
           to the National Exposure Registry specifically for hazardous waste
           sites.

           As we previously reported with respect to Camp Lejeune, those who
           lived on base likely had a higher risk of inhalation exposure to
           volatile organic compounds such as TCE, which may be more potent
           than ingestion exposure. Thus, pregnant women who lived in areas
           of base housing with contaminated water and conducted activities
           during which they could inhale water vapor--such as bathing,
           showering, or washing dishes or clothing--likely faced greater
           exposure than those who did not live on base but worked on base in
           areas served by the contaminated drinking water.

           Concerns about possible adverse health effects and government
           actions related to the past drinking water contamination on Camp
           Lejeune have led to additional activities, including new health
           studies, claims against the federal government, and federal
           inquiries. As a consequence of these growing concerns--and of
           anxiety among affected communities about these health effects and
           related litigation--ATSDR has undertaken a study to examine
           whether individuals who were exposed in utero to the contaminated
           drinking water are more likely to have developed certain childhood
           cancers or birth defects. This research, once completed later in
           2007, is expected to help regulators understand the effects of low
           levels of TCE in our environment.
			  
^6For contaminants that are known or anticipated to occur in public water
systems and that the EPA Administrator determines may have an adverse
impact on health, the act requires EPA to set a nonenforceable maximum
contaminant level goal (MCLG) at which no known or anticipated adverse
health effects occur and that allows an adequate margin of safety. Once
the MCLG is established, EPA may set an enforceable standard for water as
it leaves the treatment plant, the maximum contaminant level (MCL). The
MCL generally must be set as close to the MCLG as is feasible using the
best technology or other means available, taking costs into consideration.

           In addition, some former residents of Camp Lejeune have filed tort
           claims and lawsuits against the federal government related to the
           past drinking water contamination. As of June 2007, about 850
           former residents and former employees had filed tort claims with
           the Department of the Navy related to the past drinking water
           contamination. According to an official with the U.S. Navy Judge
           Advocate General--which is handling the claims on behalf of the
           Department of the Navy--the agency is currently maintaining a
           database of all claims filed. The official said that the Judge
           Advocate General is awaiting completion of the latest ATSDR health
           study before deciding whether to settle or deny the pending claims
           in order to base its response on as much objective scientific and
           medical information as possible. According to DOD, any future
           reassessment of TCE toxicity may result in additional reviews of
           DOD sites that utilized the former TCE toxicity values, as the
           action levels for TCE cleanup in the environment may change.
			  
			  EPA Has Not Established a Standard for Perchlorate

           As we discussed in our May 2005 report and April 2007 testimony,
           EPA has not established a standard for limiting perchlorate
           concentrations in drinking water under the SDWA. Perchlorate has
           emerged as a matter of concern because recent studies have shown
           that it can affect the thyroid gland, which helps to regulate the
           body's metabolism and may cause developmental impairments in the
           fetuses of pregnant women. Perchlorate is a primary ingredient in
           propellant and has been used for decades by the Department of
           Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and
           the defense industry in manufacturing, testing, and firing
           missiles and rockets. Other uses include fireworks, fertilizers,
           and explosives. It is readily dissolved and transported in water
           and has been found in groundwater, surface water, drinking water,
           and soil across the country. The sources of perchlorate vary, but
           the defense and aerospace industries are the greatest known source
           of contamination.

           Scientific information on perchlorate was limited until 1997, when
           a better detection method became available for perchlorate, and
           detections (and concern about perchlorate contamination)
           increased. In 1998, EPA first placed perchlorate on its
           Contaminant Candidate List, the list of contaminants that are
           candidates for regulation, but the agency concluded that
           information was insufficient to determine whether perchlorate
           should be regulated under the SDWA.^7 EPA listed perchlorate as a
           priority for further research on health effects and treatment
           technologies and for collecting occurrence data. In 1999, EPA
           required water systems to monitor for perchlorate under the
           Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule to determine the frequency
           and levels at which it is present in public water supplies
           nationwide.^8

           Interagency disagreements over the risks of perchlorate exposure
           led several federal agencies to ask the National Research Council
           (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate
           perchlorate's health effects. In 2005, NRC issued a comprehensive
           review of the health effects of perchlorate ingestion, and it
           reported that certain levels of exposure may not adversely affect
           healthy adults. However, the NRC-recommended more studies on the
           effects of perchlorate exposure in children and pregnant women and
           recommended a reference dose of 0.0007 milligrams per kilogram per
           day. In 2005, the EPA adopted the NRC recommended reference dose,
           which translates to a drinking water equivalent level (DWEL) of
           24.5 ppb. If the EPA were to develop a drinking water standard for
           perchlorate, it would adjust the DWEL to account for other sources
           of exposure, such as food.

           Although EPA has taken some steps to consider a standard, in April
           2007 EPA again decided not to regulate perchlorate--citing the
           need for additional research--and kept perchlorate on its
           Contaminant Candidate List. Several human studies have shown that
           thyroid changes occur in human adults at significantly higher
           concentrations than the amounts typically observed in water
           supplies. However, more recent studies have since provided new
           knowledge and raised concerns about potential health risks of
           low-level exposures, particularly for infants and fetuses.
           Specifically, in October 2006, researchers from the Centers for
           Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the results of the
           first large study to examine the relationship between low-level
           perchlorate exposure and thyroid function in women with lower
           iodine levels. About 36 percent of U.S. women have these lower
           iodine levels. The study found decreases in a thyroid hormone that
           helps regulate the body's metabolism and is needed for proper
           fetal neural development.

^7Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA's determination to regulate a
contaminant must be based on findings that: (a) the contaminant may have
an adverse effect on the health of persons; (b) the contaminant is known
to occur or there is a substantial likelihood that the contaminant will
occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public
health concern; and (c) in the sole judgment of the Administrator,
regulation of such contaminant presents a meaningful opportunity for
health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems.

^8EPA recently determined that it had collected sufficient data and that
further monitoring was not needed, 72 Fed. Reg. 374, January 4, 2007.

           Moreover, in May 2007, FDA released a preliminary exposure
           assessment because of significant public interest in the issue of
           perchlorate exposure from food. FDA sampled and tested foods such
           as tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and cantaloupe; and other high
           water content foods such as apple and orange juices; vegetables
           such as cucumbers, green beans, and greens; and seafood such as
           fish and shrimp for perchlorate and found widespread low-level
           perchlorate levels in these items. FDA is also planning to
           publish, in late 2007, an assessment of exposure to perchlorate
           from foods, based on results from its fiscal year 2005-2006 Total
           Diet Study--a market basket study that is representative of the
           U.S. diet.

           Some federal funding has been directed to perchlorate studies and
           cleanup activities. For example, committee reports related to the
           DOD and EPA appropriations acts of fiscal year 2006 directed some
           funding for perchlorate cleanup. In the Senate committee report
           for the Department of Health and Human Services fiscal year 2006
           appropriations act, the committee encouraged support for studies
           on the long-term effects of perchlorate exposure. The Senate
           committee report for FDA's fiscal year 2006 appropriations act
           directed FDA to continue conducting surveys of perchlorate in food
           and bottled water and to report the findings to Congress. In the
           current Congress, legislation has been introduced that would
           require EPA to establish a health advisory for perchlorate, as
           well as requiring public water systems serving more than 10,000
           people to test for perchlorate and disclose its presence in annual
           consumer confidence reports.^9 Other pending legislation would
           require EPA to establish a national primary drinking water
           standard for perchlorate.^10
			  
^9S. 24.

^10S. 150 and H.R. 1747. A national primary drinking water standard is a
legally enforceable standard that applies to public water systems. It sets
an MCL or specifies a certain treatment technique for public water systems
for a specific contaminant or group of contaminants.

           DOD's Responsibilities to Address Perchlorate and Other Emerging
			  Contaminants Where Federal Regulatory Standards Do Not Exist

           DOD has certain responsibilities with regard to emerging
           contaminants such as TCE that are regulated by EPA or state
           governments, but its responsibilities and cleanup goals are less
           definite for emerging contaminants such as perchlorate that lack
           federal regulatory standards. As we have previously reported, DOD
           must comply with any cleanup standards and processes under all
           applicable environmental laws, regulations, and executive orders,
           including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation,
           and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and
           Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant
           Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), and the SDWA. DOD's
           designation of perchlorate as an emerging contaminant reflects the
           department's recognition that the chemical has a significant
           potential impact on people or the Department's mission. DOD's
           recognition of a substance as an emerging contaminant can lead DOD
           to decide to take to certain cleanup efforts even in the absence
           of a federal regulatory standard. In addition, federal laws
           enacted in fiscal years 2004 and 2005 required DOD to conduct
           health studies and evaluate perchlorate found at military sites.
           For example, the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization
           Act for fiscal year 2005 stated that the Secretary of Defense
           should develop a plan for cleaning up perchlorate resulting from
           DOD activities when the perchlorate poses a health hazard and
           continue evaluating identified sites.^11
			  
^11Pub. L. No. 108-375, S 318, 118 Stat. 1811, 1845 (2004).

           As we reported in our 2005 perchlorate report, DOD has sometimes
           responded at the request of EPA and state environmental
           authorities--which have used a patchwork of statutes, regulations,
           and general oversight authorities--to act (or require others,
           including DOD, to act) when perchlorate was deemed to pose a
           threat to human health and the environment. For example, pursuant
           to its authority under the Clean Water Act's NPDES program, Texas
           required the Navy to reduce perchlorate levels in wastewater
           discharges at the McGregor Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant
           to 4 parts per billion, the lowest level at which perchlorate
           could be detected. Similarly, after sampling required as part of a
           RCRA permit detected perchlorate, Utah officials required ATK
           Thiokol, an explosives and rocket fuel manufacturer, to install a
           monitoring well to determine the extent of perchlorate
           contamination at their facility and take steps to prevent
           additional releases of perchlorate.

           In addition, EPA and state officials also told us during our 2005
           review that they have sometimes used their general oversight
           responsibilities to protect water quality and human health to
           investigate and sample groundwater and surface water areas for
           perchlorate. For example, EPA asked Patrick Air Force Base and the
           Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, to sample groundwater
           for perchlorate near rocket launch sites. Previously, both
           installations had inventoried areas where perchlorate was
           suspected and conducted limited sampling. DOD officials did not
           find perchlorate at Patrick Air Force Base and, according to an
           EPA official, the Department of the Air Force said it would not
           conduct additional sampling at either installation until there was
           a federal standard for perchlorate.

           Finally, according to EPA, in the absence of a federal perchlorate
           standard, at least eight states have established nonregulatory
           action levels or advisories for perchlorate ranging from 1 part
           per billion to 51 parts per billion. (See table 1.) Massachusetts
           is the only state to have established a drinking water
           standard--set at 2 ppb. The California Department of Health
           Services reports that California will complete the rulemaking for
           its proposed standard of 6 ppb later this year.^12

           Table 1: States That Have Established Nonregulatory Perchlorate
           Levels
			  
State      Level (ppb)  Type of Level                              
Arizona             14  guidance                                   
California           6  notification level                         
Maryland             1  advisory level                             
Nevada              18  public notice standard                     
New Mexico           1  drinking water screening level             
Oregon              18  action level                               
New York             5  drinking water planning level              
                       18  public notification level                  
Texas               17  residential protective cleanup level (PCL) 
                       51  industrial/commercial PCL                  

           Source: EPA and state documents.
			  
^12In September 2006, the California Department of Health Services (CDHS)
proposed a primary drinking water standard (in this case a maximum
contaminant level, MCL) of 6 ppb for perchlorate. CDHS reports that the
completed rulemaking will be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law
by August 31, 2007.

           States have used these thresholds to identify the level at which
           some specified action must be taken by DOD and other facilities in
           their state, in the absence of a federal standard. For example,
           Oregon initiated in-depth site studies to determine the cause and
           extent of perchlorate contamination when concentrations of 18 ppb
           or greater are found. Nevada required the Kerr-McGee Chemical site
           in Henderson to treat groundwater and reduce perchlorate
           concentration releases to 18 ppb, which is Nevada's action level
           for perchlorate. Utah officials told us that while the state did
           not have a written action level for perchlorate, it may require
           the responsible party to undertake cleanup activities if
           perchlorate concentrations exceed 18 ppb.^13
			  
^13According to state and EPA officials, in instances where perchlorate
was found, state agencies have sometimes taken steps to minimize human
exposure or perform cleanup, or required responsible private parties to do
so.
			  
			  DOD Is Taking Several Actions to Address TCE, Perchlorate, and
			  Other Emerging Contaminants

           DOD is undertaking a number of activities to address emerging
           contaminants in general, including the creation of the Materials
           of Evolving Regulatory Interest Team (MERIT) to systematically
           address the health, environmental, and safety concerns associated
           with emerging contaminants. As noted above, DOD is required to
           follow EPA regulations for monitoring and cleanup of TCE. In
           addition, DOD is working with ATSDR, which has projected a
           December 2007 completion date for its current study of TCE's
           health effects on pregnant women and their children. In the
           absence of a federal standard, DOD has adopted its own perchlorate
           policies for sampling and cleanup activities or is working under
           applicable state guidelines.
			  
			  DOD Recently Has Established a Mechanism for Addressing Emerging Contaminants

           DOD created MERIT to help address the health, environmental, and
           safety concerns associated with emerging contaminants. According
           to DOD, MERIT has focused on materials that have been or are used
           by DOD, or are under development for use, such as perchlorate,
           TCE, RDX, DNT and new explosives, naphthalene, perfluorooctanoic
           acid (PFOA), hexavalent chromium (i.e., chromium VI), beryllium,
           and nanomaterials. MERIT's initiatives include pollution
           prevention, detection/analytical methods, human health studies,
           treatment technologies, lifecycle cost analysis, risk assessment
           and risk management, and public outreach. Another of MERIT's
           activities was to create an Emerging Contaminant Action List of
           materials that DOD has assessed and judged to have a significant
           potential impact on people or DOD's mission. The current list
           includes five contaminants--perchlorate, TCE, RDX, naphthalene,
           and hexavalent chromium. To be placed on the action list, the
           contaminant will generally have been assessed by MERIT for its
           impacts on (1) environment, safety, and health (including
           occupational and public health), (2) cleanup efforts, (3)
           readiness and training, (4) acquisition, and (5) operation and
           maintenance activities.
			  
			  DOD is Taking Actions to Address TCE

           In 1979, EPA issued nonenforceable guidance establishing
           "suggested no adverse response levels" for TCE in drinking water.
           These levels provided EPA's estimate of the short- and long-term
           exposure to TCE in drinking water for which no adverse response
           would be observed and described the known information about
           possible health risks for these chemicals. However, the guidance
           for TCE did not suggest actions that public water systems should
           take if TCE concentrations exceeded those values. Subsequently, in
           1989, EPA set an enforceable MCL for TCE of 5 micrograms per
           liter, equivalent to 5 ppb in drinking water.

           The new standard served as a regulatory basis for many facilities
           to take concrete action to measure and control TCE. According to
           EPA's Region 4 Superfund Director, for example, 46 sites on Camp
           Lejeune have since been identified for TCE cleanup. The Navy and
           EPA have selected remedies for 30 of those sites, and the
           remaining 16 are under active investigation. The first Record of
           Decision was signed in September 1992 and addressed contamination
           of groundwater in the Hadnot Point Area, one of Camp Lejeune's
           water systems. Remedies to address groundwater contamination
           include groundwater "pump and treat" systems, in-situ chemical
           oxidation, and monitored natural attenuation.^14

           DOD contends that it is aggressively treating TCE as part of its
           current cleanup program. It notes that the department uses much
           less TCE than in the past and requires strict handling procedures
           and pollution prevention measures to prevent exposure to TCE and
           the release of TCE into the environment. Specifically, DOD has
           replaced products containing TCE with other types of cleaning
           agents such as citrus-based agents, mineral oils and other
           non-toxic solutions.
			  
^14Statement of Franklin Hill, Director of Region 4 Superfund Division,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Before the Subcommittee on Oversight
and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce, U.S. House of
Representatives (June 12, 2007).

           DOD is Sampling For Perchlorate and Taking Cleanup Actions Under
			  Certain Conditions

           In the absence of a federal perchlorate standard, DOD has adopted
           its own policies with regard to sampling and cleanup. The 2003
           Interim Policy on Perchlorate Sampling required the military
           services--Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines--to sample on active
           installations (1) where a reasonable basis existed to suspect that
           a perchlorate release occurred as a result of DOD activities, and
           (2) a complete human exposure pathway likely existed or (3) where
           a particular installation must do so under state laws or
           applicable federal regulations such as the NPDES permit program.
           However, DOD's interim policy on perchlorate did not address
           cleanup responsibilities nor did it address contamination at
           closed installations.

           As we detailed in our previous work, DOD only sampled for
           perchlorate on closed installations when requested by EPA or a
           state agency, and only cleaned up active and closed installations
           when required by a specific environmental law, regulation, or
           program such as the environmental restoration program at formerly
           used defense sites. For example, at EPA's request, the U.S. Army
           Corps of Engineers (Corps) installed monitoring wells and sampled
           for perchlorate at Camp Bonneville, a closed installation near
           Vancouver, Washington. Utah state officials also reported to us
           that DOD removed soil containing perchlorate at the former
           Wendover Air Force Base in Utah, where the Corps found perchlorate
           in 2004. However, as we previously reported, DOD cited reluctance
           to sample on or near active installations because of the lack of a
           federal regulatory standard for perchlorate.

           In the absence of a federal standard, DOD has also worked with
           individual states on perchlorate sampling and cleanup. For
           example, in October 2004, DOD and California agreed to prioritize
           perchlorate sampling at DOD facilities in California, including
           identifying and prioritizing the investigation of areas on active
           installations and military sites (1) where the presence of
           perchlorate is likely based on previous and current
           defense-related activities and (2) near drinking water sources
           where perchlorate was found.

           In January 2006, DOD updated its policy with the issuance of its
           Policy on DOD Required Actions Related to Perchlorate. The new
           policy applies broadly to DOD's active and closed installations
           and formerly used defense sites within the United States, its
           territories and possessions. It directs DOD to test for
           perchlorate and take certain cleanup actions. The policy also
           acknowledges the importance of EPA direction in driving DOD's
           response to emerging contaminants. It stated, for example, that
           its adoption of 24 ppb as the current level of concern for
           managing perchlorate was in response to EPA's adoption of an oral
           reference dose that translates to a Drinking Water Equivalent
           Level of 24.5 ppb. The policy also states that when EPA or the
           states adopt standards for perchlorate, "DOD will comply with
           applicable state or federal promulgated standards whichever is
           more stringent."

           The 2006 policy directs DOD to test for perchlorate when it is
           reasonably expected that a release has occurred. If perchlorate
           levels exceed 24 ppb, a site-specific risk assessment must be
           conducted. When an assessment indicates that the perchlorate
           contamination could result in adverse health effects, the site
           must be prioritized for risk management.^15 DOD uses a
           relative-risk site evaluation framework across DOD to evaluate the
           risks posed by one site relative to other sites and to help
           prioritize environmental restoration work and to allocate
           resources among sites. The policy also directs DOD's service
           components to program resources to address perchlorate
           contamination under four DOD programs--environmental restoration,
           operational ranges, DOD-owned drinking water systems, and DOD
           wastewater effluent discharges.

           Under the 2006 perchlorate policy, DOD has sampled drinking water,
           groundwater, and soil where the release of perchlorate may result
           in human exposure and responded where it has deemed appropriate to
           protect public health. As we have reported, DOD is responsible for
           a large number of identified sites with perchlorate contamination,
           and the department has allotted significant resources to address
           the problem. According to DOD, sampling for perchlorate has
           occurred at 258 active DOD installations or facilities. Through
           fiscal year 2006, DOD reported spending approximately $88 million
           on perchlorate-related research activities, including $60 million
           for perchlorate treatment technologies, $9.5 million on health and
           toxicity studies, and $11.6 million on pollution prevention.
           Additional funds have been spent on testing technology and
           cleanup. DOD also claims credit for other efforts, including
           strict handling procedures to prevent the release of perchlorate
           into the environment and providing information about perchlorate
           at DOD facilities and DOD's responses. For example, DOD posts the
           results of its perchlorate sampling, by state, on MERIT's Web
           site.^16
			  
^15DOD's perchlorate website has additional information regarding policy
and guidance,
http://www.denix.osd.mil/denix/Public/Library/MERIT/Perchlorate/efforts/policy/index.html.

^16See
https://www.denix.osd.mil/denix/Public/Library/MERIT/Perchlorate/index.html.

           As we have previously reported, DOD must comply with cleanup
           standards and processes under applicable laws, regulations and
           executive orders, including EPA drinking water standards and
           state-level standards. In the absence of a federal perchlorate
           standard, DOD has also initiated perchlorate response actions to
           clean up perchlorate contamination at several active and formerly
           used defense sites under its current perchlorate policy. For
           example, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, DOD has treated
           32 million gallons of ground water under a pilot project for
           contaminants that include perchlorate. In addition, DOD has
           removed soil and treated groundwater at the Massachusetts Military
           Reservation and Camp Bonneville in Washington State.

           In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, DOD faces significant challenges, and
           potentially large costs, in addressing emerging contaminants,
           particularly in light of the scientific developments and
           regulatory uncertainties surrounding these chemicals and
           materials. To help address them, DOD recently identified five
           emerging contaminants for which it is developing risk management
           options. As in the case of TCE, DOD took action to address
           contamination after EPA established an MCL in 1989. DOD has stated
           that further efforts to address perchlorate would require a
           regulatory standard from EPA and/or the states. The fact that some
           states have moved to create such standards complicates the issue
           for DOD by presenting it with varying cleanup standards across the
           country.

           As the debate over a federal perchlorate standard continues, the
           recently-issued health studies from CDC and FDA may provide
           additional weight to the view that the time for such a standard
           may be approaching. Until one is adopted, DOD will continue to
           face the challenges of differing regulatory requirements in
           different states and continuing questions about whether its
           efforts to control perchlorate contamination are necessary or
           sufficient to protect human health.

           Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be
           happy to respond to any questions that you or Members of the
           Subcommittee may have at this time.
			  
			  Contacts and Acknowledgements

           For further information about this testimony, please contact John
           Stephenson at (202) 512-3841 or [email protected] Contact
           points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public
           Affairs may be found on the last page of this statement.
           Contributors to this testimony include Steven Elstein, Assistant
           Director and Terrance Horner, Senior Analyst. Marc Castellano,
           Richard Johnson, and Alison O'Neill also made key contributions.
			  
			  Appendix I: Selected GAO Reports on Defense-related Hazardous
			  Waste Issues

           Defense Health Care: Issues Related To Past Drinking Water
           Contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, [12]GAO-07-933T
           (June 12, 2007).

           Defense Health Care: Activities Related To Past Drinking Water
           Contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, [13]GAO-07-276
           (May 11, 2007).

           Perchlorate: EPA Does Not Systematically Track Incidents of
           Contamination, [14]GAO-07-797T (April 25, 2007).

           Environmental Information: EPA Actions Could Reduce the
           Availability Of Environmental Information To The Public,
           [15]GAO-07-464T (February 6, 2007).

           Military Base Closures: Opportunities Exist to Improve
           Environmental Cleanup Cost Reporting and to Expedite Transfer of
           Unneeded Property, [16]GAO-07-166 (January 30, 2007).

           Perchlorate: A System to Track Sampling and Cleanup Results Is
           Needed, [17]GAO-05-462 (May 20, 2005).

           Military Base Closures: Updated Status of Prior Base Realignments
           and Closures, [18]GAO-05-138 (January 13, 2005).

           Environmental Contamination: DOD Has Taken Steps To Improve
           Cleanup Coordination At Former Defense Sites But Clearer Guidance
           Is Needed To Ensure Consistency, [19]GAO-03-146 (March 28, 2003).

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[31]www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1042T .

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Highlights of [32]GAO-07-1042T , a testimony before the Subcommittee on
Readiness, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives

July 12, 2007

ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION

Department of Defense Activities Related to Trichloroethylene,
Perchlorate, and Other Emerging Contaminants

DOD defines emerging contaminants as chemicals or materials with (1)
perceived or real threat to health or the environment and (2) lack of
published standards or a standard that is evolving or being reevaluated.
Two emerging contaminants--trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchlorate--are of
particular concern to DOD because they have significant potential to
impact people or DOD's mission.

TCE, a degreasing agent in metal cleaning which has been used widely in
DOD industrial and maintenance processes, has been documented at low
exposure levels to cause headaches and difficulty concentrating.
High-level exposure may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea,
unconsciousness, cancer, and possibly death. Similarly, perchlorate has
been used by DOD, NASA, and others in making, testing, and firing missiles
and rockets. It has been widely found in groundwater, surface water, and
soil across the United States, Perchlorate health studies have documented
particular risks to fetuses of pregnant women.

GAO was asked for testimony to summarize its past work on perchlorate-,
TCE-, and defense-activities related to (1) the state of knowledge about
the emerging contaminants TCE and perchlorate, (2) DOD responsibilities
for managing TCE and perchlorate contamination at its facilities, and (3)
DOD activities to address TCE and perchlorate contamination.

While TCE and perchlorate are both classified by DOD as emerging
contaminants, there are important distinctions in how they are regulated
and in what is known about their health and environmental effects. Since
1989, EPA has regulated TCE in drinking water. However, health concerns
over TCE have been further amplified in recent years after scientific
studies have suggested additional risks posed by human exposure to TCE.
Unlike TCE, no drinking water standard exists for perchlorate--a fact that
has caused much discussion in Congress and elsewhere. Recent Food and Drug
Administration data documenting the extent of perchlorate contamination in
the nation's food supply has further fueled this debate.

While DOD has clear responsibilities to address TCE because it is subject
to EPA's regulatory standard, DOD's responsibilities are less definite for
perchlorate due to the lack of such a standard. Nonetheless, perchlorate's
designation by DOD as an emerging contaminant has led to some significant
control actions. These actions have included responding to requests by EPA
and state environmental authorities, which have used a patchwork of
statutes, regulations, and general oversight authorities to address
perchlorate contamination. Pursuant to its Clean Water Act authorities,
for example, Texas required the Navy to reduce perchlorate levels in
wastewater discharges at the McGregor Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve
Plant to 4 parts per billion (ppb), the lowest level at which perchlorate
could be detected at the time. In addition, in the absence of a federal
perchlorate standard, at least nine states have established nonregulatory
action levels or advisories for perchlorate ranging from 1 ppb to 51 ppb.
Nevada, for example, required the Kerr-McGee Chemical site in Henderson to
treat groundwater and reduce perchlorate releases to 18 ppb, which is
Nevada's action level for perchlorate.

While nonenforceable guidance had existed previously, it was not until EPA
adopted its 1989 TCE standard that many DOD facilities began to take
concrete action to control the contaminant. According to EPA, for example,
46 sites at Camp Lejeune have since been identified for TCE cleanup. The
Navy and EPA have selected remedies for 30 of those sites, and the
remaining 16 are under active investigation. Regarding perchlorate, in the
absence of a federal standard DOD has implemented its own policies on
sampling and cleanup, most recently with its 2006 Policy on DOD Required
Actions Related to Perchlorate. The policy applies broadly to DOD's active
and closed installations and formerly used defense sites within the United
States and its territories. It requires testing for perchlorate and
certain cleanup actions and directs the department to comply with
applicable federal or state promulgated standards, whichever is more
stringent. The policy notes, that DOD has established 24 ppb as the
current level of concern for managing perchlorate until the promulgation
of a formal standard by the states and/or EPA.

References

Visible links
  12. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-933T
  13. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-276
  14. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-797T
  15. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-464T
  16. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-166
  17. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-462
  18. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-138
  19. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-146
  20. http://www.gao.gov/
  21. http://www.gao.gov/
  22. http://www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm
  23. mailto:[email protected]
  24. mailto:[email protected]
  25. mailto:[email protected]
  26. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-462
  27. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-797T
  28. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-276
  29. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-933T
  30. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-166
  31. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1042T
  32. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1042T
*** End of document. ***