environmental violations

If You Know Of An Environmental Violation, Report It!

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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Criminal Enforcement: Protecting Our Nation’s Air, Land, and Water From Environmental Crime

Director-Henry-E.-BarnetBy Henry E. Barnet

When people think of EPA, they often think of Birkenstock-clad activists working to protect remote vistas. The image that doesn’t immediately pop into people’s minds is one of federal agents armed with the same power as the FBI to carry weapons, conduct search warrants, interview witnesses, and make arrests. The reason EPA has a team of federal agents? Environmental crimes aren’t petty.

Take last year’s case against a facility in Port Manatee, Fla. that receives and ships materials, like fertilizer, by railcar, truck and ship. I was in my former position as head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s law enforcement division and we investigated the case jointly with EPA. We found that the company was illegally releasing particulate matter when they were loading and unloading materials. Particulate matter is an air pollutant regulated under the Clean Air Act because it can get deep into the lungs, causing serious respiratory problems.

We also found that the company’s local managers and supervisors falsely certified that they were operating their air emissions control equipment in accordance with regulations, when they knew that they were not being operated or maintained properly. For this knowing violation of the law, the company was fined $1 million and put on probation for two years. If the case had been against an individual (versus a company) it could have led to jail time.

Whether we are card carrying environmentalists or people who don’t entirely understand what an environmentalist is, we need to expand the conversation on environmentalism beyond the Birkenstock stereotype. The health of the environment—or lack thereof— impacts each and every one of us. And, when people knowingly violate the law and threaten the health of the environment, it is a crime that carries serious penalties.

I was honored to serve the citizens of the State of Florida and now, it is a great honor to be able to serve the country by working with EPA’s talented, dedicated, and diverse team of criminal agents, computer forensics experts, scientists, and lawyers to protect our nation’s resources, ensure that communities are healthy places to live, and make certain that would-be polluters think twice before breaking the law.

About the author: Henry E. Barnet is the new director of EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training

Help EPA fight pollution – report environmental violations

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.