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Audit Audit of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

The audit shows DEP is not providing important information to the federal government and the public about the safety and usability of Massachusetts watersheds in a timely manner, and also calls on the agency to improve oversight of facilities that manufacture, process, and use toxic substances. The audit examined the period of July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.

Organization: Office of the State Auditor
Date published: June 15, 2020

Executive Summary

In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor has conducted a performance audit of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the period July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019. In this performance audit, we examined DEP’s compliance with the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act, including the proper submission of toxics use reports and plan summaries, as well as the quality assurance program plan related to the DEP Division of Watershed Management’s Watershed Planning Program and its requirements for submitting reports to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Below is a summary of our findings and recommendations, with links to each page listed.

Finding 1

DEP did not submit reports on surface water quality data or make these data available online.

Recommendations

  1. DEP should reevaluate its data collection and processing methods to reduce time taken in performing manual processes, particularly data entry.
  2. DEP should work to validate surface water quality information, use the information to compile an Integrated List of Waters Report and submit it to EPA on time, and upload the data within required timeframes, even in periods of employee turnover and changes in information systems.
  3. DEP should consider using sources other than state-run laboratory services to test data samples.
  4. DEP should consider using information from external sources that has been collected and reported in a valid manner.
  5. DEP should finish implementing its new surface water quality database.

Finding 2

DEP did not ensure that all users of toxic substances, or toxics, filed biennial toxics use reduction plan summaries and annual toxics use reports.

Recommendations

  1. DEP should develop policies and procedures regarding its process to ensure that toxics users have filed the required reports and plans.
  2. DEP should establish monitoring controls to ensure that these policies and procedures are followed.

 

A PDF copy of the audit of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is available here.

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