WHAT TO EXPECT DURING AN ENVIRONMENTAL INSPECTION

Department of Natural Resources fact sheet
05/2015
Division of Environmental Quality Director: Ed Galbraith
PUB02566

Inspections or investigations of environmental conditions at your facility or operation may be conducted by a Department of Natural Resources inspector, staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or a local governmental agency.The guidance below will provide some basic information about the process.

The Inspection Process

The inspections or investigations conducted are authorized in the various laws, regulations and permits that are administered by the department. Usually, a department inspector will show up unannounced and during normal working hours.Advance notice is provided for compliance assistance visits (which have been requested by the facility) and inspections of public drinking water facilities (which are announced pursuant to the applicable law).Unless there is an emergency or time-sensitive need, department staff will usually visit between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Department staff will follow facility safety requirements (they will have brought applicable safety equipment and will listen to your safety instructions), but they will not sign liability waivers as a condition of conducting an on-site inspection or investigation.The various laws also provide authority for obtaining administrative search warrants when access has been denied.

Department inspectors will always have official credentials with a picture and business cards.You can also verify their identity by calling 800-364-4827 or 573-751-3443 and ask to speak to a supervisor for inspections in your county. Site visits are also usually made in official vehicles that will have official State of Missouri license plates. Occasionally, representatives of other governmental agencies having regulatory oversight of activities at your facility (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) may conduct inspections.

Department inspectors are professionals and are present to perform fact-finding inspections. They should be courteous and thorough. Cooperation should speed up the process.

The Purpose of an Inspection

Inspections are conducted to determine the level of compliance with applicable environmental laws, regulations, and permits that your facility has obtained.Investigations may also be conducted in response to reports of improper practices being conducted.

If your facility has any type of environmental permit, an inspection will be conducted at least once during the life of that permit.If your facility has permits from more than one environmental area (such as a water pollution discharge permit and an air emission permit), it is likely you will have at least two separate inspections, one by water pollution staff and one by air pollution staff.Multi-media inspections may occur but they are not common.

Another reason you may receive a visit from a regulatory inspector is due to a report or concern received by the department concerning environmental conditions or operations at your site. The department receives about 3,000 concern calls or reports annually.

Focus of the Inspection or Investigation

Most inspections or investigations are focused on a particular issue or area such as permit conditions or a report of some specific activity provided to the department such as open burning or illegal dumping. Most inspectors are trained to inspect in one media but may discuss other multi-media issues that they may notice (such as an unpermitted lagoon observed as during a hazardous waste inspection). The inspection could be expanded to include the complete facility or into other media areas. Or another inspection could be conducted at a time in the near future.

Notes, photographs or samples are routine parts of many inspections. If your business has proprietary processes or confidential business information, those should be discussed as part of the permitting process and, preferably, prior to any onsite inspection. The inspector will be able to provide additional information about this topic.

Completion of the On-Site Inspection

If facility representatives are available, inspectors will conduct an exit interview at the conclusion of the inspection or investigation.This will be a verbal discussion about the findings and the necessary actions. A written report will be sent, usually within 30 days. If any serious deficiencies or violations are observed, you will be advised during the exit discussion and in the written report to take prompt corrective action by a certain date. If violations are documented a notice of violation or a letter of warning may be issued with the final report.

Preparation Actions to Take Before an Inspection

Staff at a facility should understand the environmental requirements that apply to their facility. Knowledge of these requirements and expectations should be communicated through all levels of staff likely to participate in an inspection. A review of the facility’s environmental requirements and a determination of responsibility for any monitoring, testing or recordkeeping are critical. It is a good idea to have the necessary information written, filed or stored in a convenient location, and to designate both primary and backup staff familiar with the requirements and necessary written information.

Compliance Assistance Visits (CAV)

Upon a request from a facility (and prior to an inspection or investigation) department staff is available to conduct CAV.The CAV is intended to improve the understanding of the applicable regulatory requirements such as permit conditions or required sampling and reporting.

The CAV differs from a compliance inspection in that it is voluntarily requested and is focused on providing assistance rather than solely checking for compliance. Any regulated facility can request a compliance assistance visit online at http://dnr.mo.gov/cav/compliance.htm.

The goal of a CAV is to obtain timely, voluntary, and long-term compliance. No enforcement will be initiated during a CAV unless acute violations are discovered at the facility. In general, an acute violation is one that is immediately or imminently harmful to human health or the environment.

Other violations are to be noted during the CAV and discussed with the facility representative. These types of violations will be noted and a date for correction of the violations will be discussed with the facility. Depending on the type of violations discovered, department staff will likely require a written explanation or response from the facility or conduct a follow-up visit to verify the violations have been adequately addressed.

You can also find the inspection checklists used by the department on the publications section of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources home page, http://dnr.mo.gov/.