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.