WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s inspector general yesterday 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 inspector general said the shortcomings include missing documentation to confirm that hazardous waste materials were 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 US attorney’s office for possible civil action, Fine’s report stated.
In the remaining 615 cleanups without certificates, the DEA worked with companies to get other legal assurance that the hazardous waste was not diverted to produce illegal drugs nor illegally dumped.
The inspector general said the Drug Enforcement Administration has strengthened oversight of the cleanups. And DEA has agreed to withhold payments to private companies until they details of the cleanup job.