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If You Know Of An Environmental Violation, Report It!

2012 September 7

By Reiniero Rivera

A few weeks ago, my friend Carlos told me that during a road trip with his family this summer he saw something suspicious coming out of a chemical plant. Allegedly, it was some sort of yellowish foam being discharged through the effluent into the creek next to the plant.

“Did you report it?” I asked Carlos immediately. He looked at me surprised and said, “Who would I report that to? I don’t think the 911 emergency number would take that type of call.”

Carlos’ response made me realize that unfortunately not everybody knows how they can help EPA to stop environmental violations, or at least, report them. I took advantage of the occasion to let Carlos know that EPA welcomes the assistance from the general public in identifying and reporting suspicious activities that could affect public health and the environment.

Although many industries may have permits that allow them to legally discharge wastewaters into rivers of the US, that doesn’t mean that all we see coming out of their effluents is necessarily a legal discharge.

And we’re not only talking about suspicious discharges into bodies of water, but also about activities that might make us think that something weird is going on, such as strong, unusual chemical odors, abandoned barrels, trucks unloading in out-of the-way places at odd hours, or other signs of possible environmental violations.

If you see something suspicious, allow EPA’s experts to conduct the pertinent investigation to determine whether the activity in indeed legal or whether it would be prudent to find out more information. And if you don’t want to provide your contact information, you can report the potential violation anonymously.

Every member of the public can help the EPA to protect human health and the environment. Thousands of reports of potential criminal and civil violations of environmental regulations are received every year through the website. Sixty-one criminal cases have been opened as a result of the “tips” received. Have you witnessed a potential environmental violation in your community or workplace? Take action and report it!

About the author: Reiniero (“Rey”) Rivera started working for the EPA in 1987 as an environmental engineer in the Chicago regional office and currently works in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in Washington DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Gianni Nocchi permalink
    September 7, 2012

    really good!..every citizen could advise EPA if it sees something suspect!!:D

  2. Arlos Anderson permalink
    September 7, 2012

    Several years ago while working on a DoD project at Ft ord more than 1M gallons of lead and nitrate solution was discharged into the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary resulting in a massive marine mammal die off. After having reported this all that came out was my eventual firing. I would dearly love to report and see positive change but after a similar incident recently I tend to keep my mouth shut after experiencing those who should have done something failed to do so.

  3. Enviro Equipment, Inc. permalink
    September 10, 2012

    Unfortunately, your online form to report a violation (i.e. can be a little confusing the less initiated and little to involved for the less enthusiastic. Instead, you should consider having a toll-free number people can call during normal business hours and leave an anonymous message describing the nature of the alleged violation.

  4. Frank M. Larkins permalink
    June 24, 2014

    Stoney Brook Farms Subdivision
    82 Avenue and 8 street
    Vero Beach FL
    We are a growing subdivision with new homes under construction at all times. There are three builders GHO Homes, Suncore Builders. and Vero Beach Homes. Nearly every storm drain is clogged and allows water to flood the streets and yards from runoff from new home construction. Each and every rain causes the streets to flood. Right now Suncore Builders on Stoney Brook Farms Lane has allowed their lot to go with no sod and have allowed the curbs to become clogged with dirt and mud. They do nothing to remove the dirt from the curb and street A large amount of rain or hurricane will flood our streets and homes if left unattended. NEED HELP.

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