A regulatory environmental compliance site inspection and evaluation can be one of the most stressful events for environmental managers. The EPA’s “Clean Air Act Stationary Source Compliance Monitoring Strategy” suggests a full compliance evaluation by the state or regional office at least once every two years for New Source Performance Standard and National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutant sources that meet the Clean Air Act definition of “major source”. Regardless of applicable regulatory requirements or facility size you should expect that at some point your facility will be inspected.
In most cases inspections are conducted at a facility or site for the purpose of evaluating the compliance status of the facility with respect to the applicable air permit regulations. Other triggers for inspections include:
- Civil investigation,
- Response to citizen complaints,
- Collection of information for national data systems,
- Participation in development of rules to ensure they are enforceable,
- Development of compliance monitoring tools such as inspection checklists/guides,
- Training for compliance monitoring personnel, and
- Support in the development of enforcement cases.
Being prepared is the best way to counter the stress that will come as a part of the inspection process. The inspector will expect that someone at the facility will be able to describe and discuss facility processes, give an account of records to review, and discuss air permit status. One of the ways to prepare is to assign a designated facility person who will respond to the inspector and will participate in the site walk through. Other ways of preparing include:
- Reviewing and understanding the monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the air permit,
- Conducting a compliance audit to identify what needs to be done,
- Practicing how you will describe your process operations, and
- Being aware of where all environmental compliance records are kept.
There are various different types of inspections. The inspection can be announced or unannounced. Routine state agency inspections are frequently preceded by a call from the regulatory inspector that an inspection will be conducted on a specified date. On the other hand USEPA compliance inspections are typically unannounced and will involve the element of surprise.
Inspections generally include pre-inspection activities such as obtaining general site information before entering the facility or site. Other activities that may be conducted during the on-site visit include:
- Interviewing facility or site representatives,
- Reviewing records and reports,
- Taking photographs,
- Verifying that everything that needs an air permit has one,
- Assessing air pollution control devices and operating conditions,
- Observing visible emissions,
- Assessing process parameters, such as feed rates, raw material compositions, and process rates,
- Collecting samples, and
- Observing facility or site operations.
Once the inspection is over, the inspector may request additional information to complete the evaluation. You should expect to receive a report from the inspector with the results of inspection. An inspection checklist may be included with the report. The report will state whether the facility is in compliance or in violation. If the facility is out of compliance, the report will have a description of the violation(s), may suggest the actions required for achieving compliance, a timeframe to correct the violations and may have details on any further actions by the inspection agency. During this period you should:
- Save all correspondence and documents that you received as a part of the inspection process,
- Be prepared to defend your decisions and actions,
- Contact the inspector if you have questions about the report, and
- Ask for help from consultants, regulators, and sister sites.
To learn more, join us for our webinar Lessening The Stress – Air Compliance Inspection and Evaluation on August 18, 2021.