Audit Finds Broken EPA Radiation Monitors Broken And Unmaintained


Despite being designated as critical infrastructure in the War on Terror a government audit reveals a system of broken and unmaintained EPA RADNET radiation monitors.

As many of my regular readers already know, I compiled an application that displays radiation readings for every US city being under surveillance by the Federal government’s EPA RADNET monitors.

As many have repeatedly noticed for over a year, and as previously reported, the graphs often display no information for certain cities as the EPA data set is empty for those locations.

We now get official confirmation from a Federal Audit performed by the Office of the Inspector General on the status of the network.

The audit has found a system of broken and unmaintained monitors being neglected by the EPA despite the fact the agency has secured tens of millions of dollars of Taxpayer money to keep the system up and running.

The system has been designated as critical infrastructure that is vital to our national security as part of the War on Terror and move over the federal government has reassured the public that the system would be used to assure the levels of radiation falling on the United States from the Fukushima nuclear fallout did not reach harmful levels.

From the Audit:

Weaknesses in EPA’s Management of the Radiation Network System Demand Attention


Stationary RadNet monitor. (EPA OIG photo)
Broken RadNet monitors and late filter changes impaired this critical infrastructure asset. On March 11, 2011, at the time of the Japan nuclear incident, 25 of the 124 installed RadNet monitors, or 20 percent, were out of service for an average of 130 days. The service contractor completed repairs for all monitors by April 8, 2011. In addition, 6 of the 12 RadNet monitors we sampled had gone over 8 weeks without a filter change, and 2 of those for over 300 days. Because EPA managed RadNet with lower than required priority, parts shortages and insufficient contract oversight contributed to extensive delays in fixing broken monitors. In addition, broken RadNet monitors and relaxed quality controls contributed to the filters not being changed timely. Out-of-service monitors and unchanged filters may reduce the quality and availability of critical data needed to assess radioactive threats to public health and the environment.

EPA remains behind schedule for installing the RadNet monitors and did not fully resolve contracting issues identified in the OIG’s January 2009 report. Until EPA improves contractor oversight, the Agency’s ability to use RadNet data to protect human health and the environment, and meet requirements established in the National Response Framework for Nuclear Radiological Incidents, is potentially impaired.

What We Recommend

We recommend that the Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation establish and enforce expectations for RadNet operations readiness. We recommend improved planning and management of parts availability, monitoring of filter replacement and operators, and monitoring of the installation of the remaining RadNet monitors. Further, we recommend that the Assistant Administrator, in conjunction with the Assistant Administrator for Administration and Resources Management, hold contractors accountable by establishing milestones, using incentives and disincentives, requiring contracting officers and contracting officers’ representatives to formally evaluate RadNet contractors annually, and ensure that the Agency’s Management Audit Tracking System is accurate and current. The Agency concurred with the recommendations except for developing metrics for evaluating frequency of filter changes and completing contractor performance evaluations, which is considered unresolved. The Agency also proposed revised language, which we incorporated where appropriate.

Why We Did This Review

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) sought to determine whether EPA is following quality control procedures to ensure that data submitted from Radiation Network (RadNet) monitors nationwide are reliable and accurate, and whether EPA effectively implemented corrective actions in response to the EPA OIG’s January 27, 2009, audit report on RadNet.

Background

EPA’s December 2004 Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Protection Plan identified RadNet monitors as critical infrastructure. The mission of RadNet is to monitor environmental radioactivity in the United States to provide high-quality data for assessing public exposure and environmental impacts resulting from nuclear emergencies, and to provide baseline data during routine conditions. RadNet played a critical role in monitoring radiation levels in the United States during the March 2011 Japan nuclear incident.

Introduction

Purpose

In January 2009, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an audit report that contained recommendations for improving the management and oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Radiation Network (RadNet) system. The nature and importance of the prior report recommendations and the recent attention on RadNet due to the critical role it played in the United States during the March 2011 Japan nuclear incident warranted a follow-up audit. Our audit objectives were to determine:

Whether EPA is following quality control procedures to ensure that data submitted from the RadNet monitors nationwide are reliable and accurate
Whether EPA effectively implemented corrective actions in response to our January 27, 2009, audit report, EPA Plans for Managing Counter Terrorism/Emergency Response Equipment and Protecting Critical Assets Not Fully Implemented
Background

The Patriot Act of 2001 defined critical infrastructure as assets so vital to the United States that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on public health or safety. Homeland Security Presidential Directive No. 7, December 17, 2003, required federal agencies to identify, prioritize, and protect Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Protection Plan (CIPP) assets. EPA’s December 2004 CIPP identified RadNet monitors as critical infrastructure. The June 2008 Nuclear/Radiological Incident Annex to the National Response Framework lists EPA and RadNet as a key federal radiological resource and asset.

EPA’s RadNet System

RadNet, a national network of monitoring stations, provides real-time monitoring of environmental levels of radiation in the United States. Monitoring stations regularly collect air, precipitation, drinking water, and milk samples for analysis of radioactivity. RadNet has three objectives:

Provide data for nuclear emergency response assessments
Provide data on ambient levels of radiation in the environment for baseline and trend analysis
Inform the general public and public officials about radiation levels
EPA’s RadNet system consists of 124 stationary (fixed) monitors1 and 40 deployable air monitors that can be sent to take readings anywhere in the country (figure 1). Our audit focused on EPA’s stationary RadNet air monitoring system.

US state map showing RADNET monitor locations

Figure 1: Locations of RadNet monitors nationwide as of April 2011

[…]

For further information, contact our Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at (202) 566-2391.

The full report is at: http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2012/20120419-12-P-0417.pdf

Categories: NUCLEAR NEWS

Write a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*