In the face of mounting problems with hazardous waste dumps around the United States, President Carter is expected to propose next week a substantial increase in money and manpower for those agencies charged with enforcing laws on waste disposal.
Administration sources said yesterday that the president's proposal would beef up the environmental enforcement sections of the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Transportation, which has some environmental responsibility under the Clean Water Act, also would get additional funds, sources said.
Both EPA and the Justice Department asked the Office of Management and Budget for extra enforcement personnel to handle the hazardous waste issue that has been growing since it gained attention early last year with reports of problems at the Love Canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The executive branch sources said that EPA would get about half of the 190 additional hazardous waste positions it requested and a "substantial" amount of funds for enforcement. The agency had sought a $131 million supplemental appropriation.
The Justice Department, which requested 30 new positions for hazardous and toxic waste enforcement, would get more than half of its request, sources said.
Administration officials said the president's proposal is not intended to replace larger administration plans for a $6 billion "superfund" for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites and oil spills. That fund, which is likely to face stiff opposition from industry, would be made up from annual levies of up to $400 million on oil, chemical and heavy metal producers and additional funds from federal appropriations.
The administration's proposal would be added to the fiscal 1980 budget which is before the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
The infusion of cash and enforcement personnel would come at a time EPA and the Justice Department are under fire for not moving rapidly enough in court against those responsible for both abandoned and operating hazardous waste sites.
In April, EPA said it had identified nearly 100 sites that posed "current threats" to the health of persons living nearby. The agency has 44 investigations under way that could lead to legal action, Marvin Durning, assistant EPA administrator for enforcement, said yesterday.
So far, however, only six federal lawsuits have been filed against alleged hazardous waste polluters and one conviction has been obtained - when three men pleaded guilty in January to dumping toxi PCBs along roadways in North Carolina.
That record has drawn sniping from congressional critics and environmental groups.
"We've identified the sites, and the problem now is to put the money and manpower into cleaning them up," said one congressional staff aide who has been working on the situation. "This announcement by Carter could be the proof of the pudding in terms of how far the government is really willing to commit itself."
Federal environmental enforcement officials contend that their efforts to date to control the hazardous waste situation have been bogged down by the dimensions of the problem, confusing federal statutes and lack of federal enforcement manpower.
EPA has estimated that there are 30,000 hazardous waste sites in the country and that up to 2,000 of them may be dangerous to public health.
Right now EPA has more than 100 employes assigned to work on hazardous waste site cases but most of the assignments are recent. "Six months ago," said Durning, "we had only 20 persons working on this. Before this year we didn't do any enforcement because we didn't know there was anything to enforce."
The Justice Department has said it is even more undermanned in the hazardous waste enforcement area. In testimony last month Assistant Attorney General James W. Moorman told the House subcommittee on oversight and investigations that the department has only one attorney working full time on all hazardous waste problems and three or four other persons working on them part time.
Within the next month, Justice is expected to file suit against the Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Copr. of Niagara Falls for Hooker's chemical dumping at the Love Canal and other New York sites. The Justice Department's lone full-time hazardous waste attorney will face attorneys from three law firms hired by Hooker to handle the case.
Officials for the Justice Department and EPA differ on the adequacy of the federal statutes to curb hazardous waste problems.
Moorman testified that the Justice Department has identified 21 federal statutes covering hazardous waste and he said the government's authority in the area is adequate.
But Moorman said EPA lacked qualified investigators to prepare court cases and he complained that his own department lacked subpoena power in hazardous waste cases.
EPA officials disagree, contending that while they have qualified investigators the federal statutes in the hazardous waste area are not adequate. The agency has had to rely heavily on the "imminent hazard" provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The provision, they said, requires more time and manpower than are available.