Continued from page 1

“Decisions about uses of redeveloped or reused brown fields properties may be based on improper assessments,” the IG said. “Ultimately, threats to human health and the environment could go unrecognized.”

The government is paying for the privilege. The 35 evaluations of sites the IG said were inadequate cost the EPA $2.1 million.

The IG’s critique was one of five areas cited as primary concerns in the office’s 2013 report to EPA leadership, along with the EPA’s oversight of state-level programs, cybersecurity, management of chemical risks and workforce planning.

New threats are propping up, including new findings on how contaminated soil vapors pose a threat to humans. The New York state government, for example, is investigating several reused sites for dangerous vapors, a phenomenon the IG said the EPA doesn’t yet have a plan to address.

And the inspector general is also concerned some states might not have the finances to support the reused sites, noting that Michigan state officials expressed concern they might run out of funds to monitor the safety of several decontaminated sites.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity at the EPA is decentralized, investigators found, with some piecemeal improvements implemented by separate offices. Although the agency is improving its computer safety, investigators noted that several known security issues still need to be addressed, and passwords and identification for users should be improved.

The watchdog’s report also found that the EPA needs better workforce planning tools to determine whom it should hire.

“The EPA has not developed analytical methods or collected data to measure its workload and the corresponding workforce levels necessary to carry out that workload,” investigators said.