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What does the EPA mean by "monitoring?"

Anytime the Environmental Protection Agency requires you to remain in compliance with certain environmental regulations, its representatives tell you that the agency monitors your activities and conditions. You might not understand exactly what that means, however.

Understanding how the EPA does its monitoring might help you remain in compliance or better combat any supposed environmental violations the agency claims you have. Being able to head off any potential litigation could save time, money and effort.

The basics of EPA monitoring

The basic outline of the EPA's monitoring program consists of the following:

  • Providing support, training and credentials to its inspectors
  • Creating and implementing strategies for compliance monitoring
  • Conducting on-site evaluations, investigations and inspections
  • Conducting off-site reviews, reporting and data collection
  • Conducting off-site support, oversight and program coordination

Inspections usually focus on one EPA program, such as the Clean Water Act, and address one of the following:

  • A facility
  • An industry
  • A specific issue
  • A specific locality or region
  • An ecosystem

The EPA also often initiates inspections through incentives designed to encourage facilities to look for and report violations or from public complaints and tips. Any information received from these sources could also result in contact from the EPA.

What happens during an inspection?

An EPA inspection often includes the following:

  • Gathering relevant information prior to going on-site
  • Reviewing reports and records
  • Observing operations
  • Taking photographs
  • Interviewing individuals at the site

The length of the inspection varies depending on the issue. The EPA could also simply conduct a records review that may not necessarily require an on-site inspection.

Investigations

If an inspection raises red flags for the EPA, it will often then conduct a detailed investigation during which the agency takes a closer look at the problem. Investigations can take weeks to complete. In addition, they can arise from citizens continuously filing complaints and studies conducted by other agencies. These investigations can result in either civil or criminal actions.

Requests for information

Another potential red flag that the EPA is looking into your operations comes in the form of a request for information. After an inspection, complaints or other actions that put you on the EPA's radar, the agency's desire for additional information could mean future problems for you.

It might be beneficial to contact an environmental attorney here in Atlanta who can represent you and advocate for you as soon as you receive any notification from the EPA regarding a possible violation.

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