What is basic environmental compliance?

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | May 29, 2014

Time to Read 4 Minutes

Basic compliance is a relatively simple concept. It's adhering to the environmental laws and regulations that impact your operation. Here we discuss 4 basic areas any industrial facility falls under and how they can get into compliance.

One term thrown around a lot in our line of work is 'basic environmental compliance'. Whether we're talking about it in the office, online, or we're getting asked about what it means, it's a very important concept to understand.

For many, the concept of compliance can be confusing, and many don't understand the rules and regulations impacting their facility. Consider that laws and regulations could be in place on the federal, state, county, and local levels, it's no wonder people struggle with it.

A lot of people simply ignore the regulations. Bad idea. The fines for non-compliance can be huge, and the violations range from having to get into compliance to shutting your operation down. It's not something to mess with

What is basic environmental compliance?

What makes up basic environmental compliance?

We've found that virtually every facility in the US needs to be concerned about these four areas:  

  1. Stormwater Permits – NPDES stormwater permits, required by the Federal Clean Water Act, are required at any facility in the US that discharges any pollutant into a water of the US. Generally, that means either process wastewater, or stormwater discharges. So for most of us, that means having a stormwater permit issued by your state regulatory agency. There are some situations that might not need a stormwater permit, such as having all operations and materials indoors (which might allow you to obtain a non-exposure stormwater certification), but for most facilities, a stormwater discharge permit and all that goes with it (having a SWPPP, stormwater monitoring, inspections, etc.) is required.
  2. Air Quality Permits – Most facilities in the US that emit pollutants to the atmosphere in any form (including dust) generally need coverage under an air permit issued by the state or regional air regulatory agency. There tends to be more variations on this than stormwater permits, such as exempt categories of facilities and different types of permits depending upon volume of emissions. We don't do these, but find that the vast majority of our clients need these permits.
  3. SPCC Plan – A Spill, Prevention, Control and Countermeasure plan is required at any facility that has the potential to store in excess of 1,320 gallons of petroleum on site in any container down to and including 55-gallon drums. That’s a lot of facilities in the United States! For many, this gets overlooked since usually this is enforced by the Federal USEPA, not their state environmental agency. This isn’t a permit, only the requirement that you develop and implement an SPCC Plan if you exceed the 1,320 gallon threshold of petroleum storage.
  4. Hazardous Materials Reporting – Usually the two kinds of hazardous materials reporting that a facility should consider are Tier II Reporting and TRI Reporting. Do not confuse these two reporting requirements. They cover different materials, have different deadlines, etc. Doing one doesn't mean you did them both. We've found most facilities need to do Tier II Reporting, while about half our clients need to do TRI Reporting. These are reporting requirements by the EPA, and from what we've seen, non-compliance with reporting carries some of the largest fines we've ever seen.

In our opinion, those four things constitute basic compliance at any facility. There may be more that are applicable to your facility or industry you're in, but this is a great place to start. Get into compliance with these, and then you can move on with more complex issues. Or, figure out where you are through the use of a comprehensive environmental audit, which will tell you exactly where you stand with regards to environmental compliance.

What is basic environmental compliance?

So what is environmental compliance?

Great, now you know what you need to be concerned about, but what's compliance? Simply put, it's following the applicable environmental laws, rules, and regulations at your operation, and doing everything you're required to do. We recently wrote an in-depth article on what is environmental compliance which covers it pretty well. If you're unsure about compliance, check it out.

No matter how you approach it, basic compliance isn’t a luxury, it has to be a given. If you're struggling with compliance, or need help with your environmental program, click here to contact us or give us a call at 609-693-8301 to discuss your needs today.


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