Department of Environmental Conservation

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Environmental Conservation
Selected Aspects of Inactive Hazardous Waste Site Remediation Cost Recovery


Issued: January 22, 2015
Link to full audit report 2014-S-14
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether the Department of Environmental Conservation (Department) has effective systems in place to fully and accurately accumulate State costs related to site investigation and remediation, bill for and collect these costs from responsible parties in a timely manner, and identify and pursue parties responsible for the contamination of inactive hazardous waste sites. This audit covers the period April 1, 2011 through October 17, 2014.

Background
The Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for the Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Program (Program), also known as the State Superfund Program, in New York. The purpose of the Program is to identify, investigate, and remediate sites containing consequential amounts of hazardous waste. Sites that pose a significant threat to public health and/or the environment require investigation, identification of possible responsible parties, and remediation of the site. Responsible parties are legally responsible for site remediation. The Department takes steps to identify and locate responsible parties, and negotiate consent orders with them, to ensure the proper cleanup of the sites and repayment of associated State costs. The Department also bills responsible parties to recover State costs associated with remediating a site.

Key Findings

  • The Department has taken steps to improve its Superfund billing process and the timeliness of billing. However, bill preparation is a very time-consuming process and billing frequency for each site is about once a year at most. In addition, the bills do not include up-to-date costs, which delays recovery of some State costs until the next bill is prepared. We reviewed 21 bills for eight sites and found they did not include the most recent three to seven months of site costs. We looked up the amount of costs incurred but not billed for 14 of the 21 and found that the unbilled costs totaled $1.9 million.
  • We found that the Department generally takes reasonable steps to identify all potential responsible parties and to obtain agreements with, or pursue enforcement efforts against, those parties responsible for contaminating a site.

Key Recommendations

  • Explore additional ways to increase the efficiency and timeliness of the billing process.
  • Work internally and with Department of Health officials to identify and implement ways to include more up-to-date costs in each bill.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Department of Transportation: Collection of Lease and Permit Revenues (2012-S-6)
Office of the Attorney General: Accounts Receivable Collections (2011-S-25)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236