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Department of Environmental Quality-Aquifer Protection Permit Program, Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund Program, and Underground Storage Tank Program (November 1999, Report No. 99-21)

 
 

This report addresses issues related to three Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) programs that are responsible for protecting the State’s critical water resources from contamination.

Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) program—A number of problems were identified with the APP program, which is designed to help prevent groundwater contamination from occurring. Based on its historical performance, the program is unlikely to meet statutory permit processing deadlines, and it has not focused its attention on ensuring that high-risk facilities obtain required permits. In addition, ADEQ’s ability to manage the program is limited because data is inaccurate and incomplete. Further, although the amount businesses can be required to pay for aquifer protection permit processing is capped in statute, ADEQ has inappropriately solicited additional permit processing monies from some businesses it regulates.

Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF) program—WQARF is the State's program designated to clean up historically contaminated groundwater. ADEQ faces challenges related to the shift from a joint to a proportional liability standard. ADEQ can no longer identify a single party who contributed to contamination at a site and hold that party solely responsible. Now ADEQ must use its best efforts to identify all contributing parties, allocate responsibility proportionately among them, and determine each party's ability to pay.

Underground Storage Tank (UST) program—The report provides information on the progress ADEQ has made toward implementing recommendations made in a 1998 performance audit of the Underground Storage Tank program (Auditor General Report No. 98-4). ADEQ has become more efficient in handling leaking underground storage tank cases, reducing a backlog of documents it needs to review and approve. However, funding available for approved cleanup costs is still lacking. At the end of fiscal year 1999, ADEQ had more than $55 million in approved but unpaid claims. Finally, ADEQ has been slow in establishing risk-based corrective action rules that would allow cleanup efforts to focus on those leaking underground storage tanks that pose the greatest danger to the public.

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