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EPA's watchdog to investigate agency's performance in lead-smelter reports

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 7:44 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog plans to investigate the agency's performance in addressing the health risks posed by lead smelters in the wake of a USA Today investigation. The action was announced this week as part of the Inspector General's action plan for 2013.

USA Today's ongoing “Ghost Factories” investigation found the EPA and state regulators had failed to investigate and address risks to thousands of families posed by long-closed lead factory sites across the country.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr., whose office is charged with independently auditing and watchdogging the agency's programs and spending, listed the lead smelter probe as a new review priority in his office's Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Plan.

The scope of the lead smelter review has not been finalized, the office said.

Officials at the Environmental Law Institute, a non-partisan research and training organization based in Washington, applauded the IG's plan for a lead-smelter probe.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he's hopeful the inspector general's probe will shine further light on the agency's responsibilities to children, communities and taxpayers.

“For too long, regulators have neglected to fully investigate toxic sites in our communities,” Brown said. “We need to review sites that have not yet been tested and prioritize testing near schools, playgrounds and neighborhoods close to abandoned smelter sites. After the results come in, we need to take action to clean up residual contamination.”

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