WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department's inspector general on Wednesday cited significant problems in the Drug Enforcement Administration's cleanup of clandestine drug laboratories - a program that has handled 70,000 cleanups in the past 21 years.
The IG said the shortcomings include missing documentation to confirm that hazardous waste materials are properly handled at labs formerly used by criminals to manufacture drugs such as methamphetamine.
The DEA contracts with private companies for the cleanups.
Between 2004 and 2008, firms did not provide certificates of disposal for 1,747 cleanups, the DEA told Inspector General Glenn Fine.
One vendor was responsible for 1,132 - 65 percent - of the missing certificates, omissions that have been referred to a U.S. attorney's office for possible civil action, the IG's report stated.
The IG said that in the remaining 615 cleanups without certificates, the DEA worked with the companies to get other legal assurance that the hazardous waste was not diverted for the manufacture of illegal drugs nor illegally dumped.
The IG said the Drug Enforcement Administration has strengthened oversight of the cleanup program.
In addition, DEA has agreed with the inspector general's recommendations to withhold payments to private companies until they submit final manifests when they bill the government, the report stated.
Manifests detail the quantity and types of hazardous materials removed from clandestine labs.
By PETE YOST
Jun. 30, 2010