Storage of important and valuable equipment at a U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution facility in Maryland needs to be addressed, according to the agency's inspector general.
The Capitol Heights, Md., facility is home to the Postal Service's Southern Maryland Processing and Distribution Center and the Washington Network Distribution Center.
When visited by the IG, a large amount of mail transport equipment (MTE) and mail processing equipment (MPE) was found unsheltered and unprotected outside.
These assets are worth around $1.3 million combined.
On June 27, the IG found 1,389 pieces of MTE stored outside in the facility's eastern yard. There were also indications that the outdoor storage of the MTEs, which includes all-purpose and over-the-road containers, had gone on for quite some time.
In one instance, a plastic mail tub "crumbled at physical touch" — deterioration a USPS mechanical engineer said only happens after years of outdoor exposure.
The outside storage of MTEs — worth around $1.03 million — also poses a risk of discharging rust and other hazardous materials runoff into storm water near storm drains. The IG points this out as something the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strongly warns against.
Employees at the P&DC and NDC also failed to report damaged or broken parts for repair. Not only were management officials at the facility aware of the misused equipment and the policies to handle it, they "acknowledged their noncompliance" with the policies, the IG found.
In 2012, the Postal Service mounted an internal information campaign to stop abuse of MTE, including a poster declaring "it costs more than $100 million a year to replace Postal Service MTE."
MPE was also found unsheltered outside — 12 container loaders were uncovered and tarps that had deteriorated had not been replaced.
Postal Service policy explicitly states that MPE should not be stored outside as to be exposed to the weather. These pieces had an asset value of $284,544.
Management agreed that there are "opportunities to improve both MTE and MPE handling and to eliminate misuse at the Capitol Heights facilities."
View the full report, which contains photos of the equipment, below.