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How Does the EPA Monitor Compliance?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for laws and regulations that prevent human activity from interfering with the natural environment. These regulations are put into effect and left to dictate the production processes of any community or organization to which they apply. The organizations themselves are responsible for making sure that they are following all guidelines.

But then how are they enforced? How does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensure that companies are in compliance? The EPA does have a number of tactics to check up on the health and safety practices of organizations under their jurisdiction. Here’s a short list summarizing some of these tactics:

  • Divide by resources. The EPA has a number of compliance programs, each of which is dedicated to a particular sector of the field. For example, air, water, and waste materials are all regulated or preserved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Each of these is further divided into individual programs and regulations. Air is dictated by the Clean Air Act (CAA) and water by the Clean Water Act (CWA) as well as the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This makes it much easier for the EPA to focus on protecting specific valuable resources rather than the environment at large.
  • Inspections. The EPA may send a representative to an organization to inspect their facility. This visit primarily involves analyzing the processes and facilities and comparing them to the regulations currently in place. Representatives may collect samples, view records, take pictures, and interview staff when conducting a thorough inspection. If something is found to be noncompliant, the organization may receive a penalty or simply be asked to address the issue within a certain timeframe.
  • Self-reporting. Rather than send a representative for more frequent inspections, the EPA has come to rely heavily on self-reporting. The EPA has installed incentives for those organizations who are actively avoiding and preventing the possibility of noncompliance. Even those who have identified a current issue are given incentive to report and correct the mistake. Of course, regular inspections are still necessary for those who try to cut corners or ignore the regulations entirely. But this is a great way to remove some of the burden from the EPA and reward environmentally conscious business practices.

If you have ever been visited by the EPA, you know it can be a nerve-racking experience. But just know that they will work alongside you to encourage your efforts in environmental compliance and help you to correct any mistakes.