For an agency with a mission to protect the environment, the EPA sure can waste a lot of paper.
That’s what investigators found when they inspected a warehouse in Ohio where the Environmental Protection Agency was storing millions of pamphlets and brochures. But lots of small slips of green paper were also wasted — it cost taxpayers $1.5 million annually for the storage.
The warehouse in Blue Ash, Ohio, run by the National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP), is stocked with more than 18 million publications — a backlog of more than six years as the agency only ships out about 3 million publications annually.
The agency’s internal watchdog concluded that it costs the agency $1.2 million to preserve and store the pamphlets in the warehouse, plus about another $400,000 for management and leasing costs of the space — not to mention the printing costs that have now gone for naught since no one is reading the publications.
The report, released Thursday, is part of an ongoing evaluation by the EPA’s inspector general into whether “EPA’s personal property stored in select warehouse space is being used effectively, accounted for, and disposed of by the agency.”
But investigators released details of the pamphlet warehouse early — before the conclusion of their investigation — because they said the EPA should take immediate steps to reevaluate just how much storage space it needs and what to do with the remaining publications.
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Investigators said the warehouse’s managers have “an inventory-management belief that it is better to have more than enough products on hand than to try to manage with just the amount of stock needed.”
NSCEP officials said they have already recycled more than 140 tons of material — roughly 2 million items, including technical manuals and marketing items.
It’s not the first time the IG has found problems at EPA warehouses.
In May, investigators harshly criticized a warehouse in Maryland that was filled with unused furniture, including six-year-old appliances still in the original, unopened boxes. Employees had started taking up warehouse space for personal use for TVs or gym equipment, and the IG described the conditions as “deplorable” with “corrosion, vermin feces, mold and other problems” everywhere.
EPA officials explained at the time that the Maryland warehouse was being used to store equipment and other inventory for its Washington headquarters.
“The inventory ranges from sensitive items such as personally identifiable information, including passports, to computers and other electronic equipment to basic personal property such as paper and office furniture,” the report said. Among the items discovered in the warehouse: a box of unsecured passports.