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The purpose of an inspection is for EPA to gather the appropriate information to determine whether the facility in question is in compliance with regulatory requirements. While inspections may happen after a significant environmental event or violation, EPA inspections are often a surprise to the facility as part of EPA’s overall compliance monitoring efforts. An inspection may be conducted on a single-media program or a specific environmental problem—or it may be an extensive multimedia event that covers all EHS compliance areas.
The frequency of these comprehensive multimedia inspections appears to be increasing. It is important that companies are prepared in the event they are faced with an EPA inspection. Preparation comes down to regularly evaluating the programs listed below to make sure records are complete, compliant, and easily accessible at all times. Note that this is not a comprehensive list; however, KTL’s experience assisting customers with preparing for and responding to EPA inspections has shown that these are areas the Agency tends to focus on.
1. Hazardous Waste Records
Do you have three (3) years of manifests and land disposal notifications readily available? Have you checked dates/signatures and final disposal information to make sure it is correct? Did you receive your return manifest within the required timeframe and, if not, did you file an exception report? Do you have waste characterizations?
2. Universal Waste
Are all containers closed, labeled, and dated? Are the words on the label compliant (i.e., “Universal Waste Lamps” vs. “Bad Bulbs”)? Do you have all disposal receipts readily available?
3. Used Oil
Are all containers closed and labeled as “Used Oil”? Do you have receipts from recycling activities? Did your transporter have an EPA ID number? Did the oil recycler test for PCB?
Are all employees responsible for a role in hazardous waste management trained and knowledgeable? Can they demonstrate compliance and competency if they are asked questions by an inspector? Have you addressed DOT training requirements? Are employees managing universal waste aware of their responsibilities?
5. Hazardous Waste Containers
Are all containers closed, labeled, and dated? Do you have a Satellite Accumulation Area (SAA), and is it properly labeled and managed? Are containers stored in the Central Accumulation Area (CAA) and properly managed? Does everyone working in the CAA have access to an emergency phone or way to alert emergency responders if there is a problem? Is there a spill kit that is appropriate for the hazardous waste type stored? Is the spill kit readily accessible in the CAA? Do you have records of weekly inspections (Small Quantity Generator (SQG) and Large Quantity Generator (LQG))?
Do you have three (3) years of reports and/or supporting documents for Tier II, TRI, and hazardous waste reporting? Do you have a current EPA Air Emissions Permit or documentation that demonstrates you are not required to have one? Are you required to have a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) or a no exposure exclusion? Are you required to have a Spill Prevention, Containment and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan? Are you preforming all activities and inspections required for your permits and plans?
If you have an inspection and there are findings, typically the next step in the process is for EPA to alert you with a Notification of Potential Findings. EPA will ask for your input and likely ask for additional data and documentation. If you find yourself in this situation, KTL strongly encourages you to seek expert assistance. If the responses to EPA are not made using “EPA compliance language,” there is a likelihood you may be offering more evidence to self-incriminate. This will allow EPA to then calculate multi-day penalty amounts that can add up very quickly. Once a company responds, it is difficult to dig out of such a hole.
EPA inspections, particularly in light of the challenges associated with COVID-19, are difficult to navigate. However, KTL’s experience has shown—even recently—that it is possible for businesses to proactively prepare for EPA inspections to reduce the likelihood of findings and/or penalties.
2.24.21 Webinar: Preparing for EPA Inspections in Iowa
EPA-contracted inspectors have been visiting facilities in Iowa. To date, we are aware of four inspections–all of which have been very comprehensive multimedia inspections. This is a trend that appears to be gaining momentum. Join KTL Senior Consultant and Iowa expert Becky Wehrman-Andersen and Senior Consultant Liz Hillgren, CHMM, CEA, for a one-hour webinar on 2.24.21 that will provide guidance on where to focus your attention to proactively prepare for an EPA inspection and reduce the likelihood of findings and/or penalties. Learn more and register now!