Environment & Science

State auditor: Toxics regulators miss millions in past-due cleanup costs

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The state agency responsible for regulating toxic pollution has failed to collect hundreds of millions in cleanup costs from polluters, the California auditor's office reported Thursday. 

The report from State Auditor Elaine Howle says the Department of Toxic Substances Control has failed to collect nearly $194 million in costs from 1,661 toxic cleanup projects stretching back to 1987.

The report also found more than $13-million of those costs will likely never be collected because the statute of limitations on scores of cleanup projects has expired.  In addition, it's unclear whether another $73 million will ever be recouped from polluters who are either bankrupt or involved in litigation.

In a statement, DTSC spokeswoman Tamma Adamek said the agency welcomes the audit:

"We embrace the California State Auditor’s review which both validates and guides our efforts to resolve this longstanding issue.  Since we publicly disclosed this issue last year, we have taken significant steps, and today’s report offers valuable insights and recommendations.

The Department worked closely with the auditors during their months of fieldwork and we will continue reporting our progress to them and the public."

The auditor's office called on DTSC to improve and update collection procedures by January 2015. It also recommends the legislature revise state law to allow higher interest rates to be charged on late cleanup payments.