Case load brings recognition to EPA lawyer

By Amy Miller

Attorney Jeff Kopf was called to the deputy administrator’s office to talk about cases he had settled with towns or companies who had violated environmental laws. Getting called to the boss’s office is not an every day occurrence for a lawyer in EPA New England’s office, so he wondered why these cases were drawing attention.Kopf

When he arrived at Deb Szaro’s office, Jeff found, rather than a discussion of legal matters, a group of colleagues there to congratulate him. Jeff, now in his 19th year at EPA New England, was being recognized as “Employee of the Month” for his work in settling five separate cases that will ensure cleaner water for communities around New England.

Every month EPA recognizes an employee whose work has made a significant contribution to public health or environmental protection and most recently it was Jeff.

A native of Brookline now living in Newton, Jeff, generally handles cases involving the Clean Water Act. This focus on water is a natural outgrowth of his initial interest in environmental work.

Before joining EPA, he worked at a wildlife rehab center near Seattle, Wash. There he washed sea birds covered in oil from a large oil spill off the coast. He also learned skills related to capturing and caring for injured urban wildlife such as raccoons, opossums and seagulls, and he learned how to track released animals with radio tracking devices, including eagles, black bears and coyotes. Then he went to Boston College Law School with a focus on environmental law.

“I like working with communities to solve big waste water and stormwater infrastructure problems to come up with a solution,” said Jeff, a Brookline native now living in Newton. “I always like those cases that prevent oil spills from getting into the environment.”

In addition to the five enforcement actions Jeff finished under the Clean Water Act, he also oversaw the completion of a sixth case by an honors fellow he mentors. And besides the impressive number of cases he handled in just one recent month, Jeff was lead attorney for a total of 19 Clean Water Act cases finished in the fiscal year (which ended Sept. 30.)

“This incredible level of productivity, and the direct environmental results that he achieved in August alone, deserved recognition,” said Deputy Regional Administrator Deb Szaro

Four of the cases closed recently by Jeff – in Worcester and Halifax, Mass., and in Derby and Bridgeport, Conn., – were with municipalities. Two others – Foster Materials in Henniker, N.H., and Townsend Oil in Georgetown, Mass. – involved companies. The cases for the most part included violations involving illicit discharges, for instance an industry not fully complying with its stormwater permit, not using best management practices or not following spill prevention rules.

The cases include actions in: Worcester, which will address unauthorized discharges to Lake Quinsigamond and the Blackstone River by putting in place a plan to manage stormwater; Bridgeport, Conn., which discharged untreated sewage to the Bridgeport Harbor and Pequannock River, will address sewer overflows; Halifax, which agreed to address violations of its discharge permit at the town’s water treatment plant; Derby, Conn., which has discharged untreated sewage into the Naugatuck and Housatonic Rivers, and will put in place a program to address ongoing sewer overflows; Foster Materials, which has a sand and gravel mine and production facility in Henniker, NH, and pay a $20,000 fine for discharging sediment-laden water into the Contoocook River; and Townsend Oil, which operates a fuel oil bulk plant in Georgetown,., and to pay $30,000 to settle claims it failed to maintain and fully put in place a spill prevention plan.

Jeff acknowledged it is “certainly nice to be recognized,” but noted that enforcement cases involve collaboration, an aspect of his job he particularly values.

“Part of what I enjoy here,” he said, “is working with the technical staff the engineers who helped me put those cases together and helped in settling them.”

More information on how EPA enforces the Clean Water Act (https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/water-enforcement) and how EPA works with companies to avoid oil spills from occurring (https://www.epa.gov/oil-spills-prevention-and-preparedness-regulations)

Amy Miller works in the office of public affairs at EPA New England.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Tell Us Why #CleanWaterRules

By Travis Loop

I’m lucky to work every day for clean water. It’s vital to everyone’s life and an important issue for our country. But, it’s especially fulfilling to work for clean water because it’s central to who I am as a person.

I’m a father. I have two young boys and their health and well-being is my top priority. They need clean water to drink at home, in school, and around the community. We live in Annapolis, Maryland, and spend plenty of time by the Chesapeake Bay and the streams, creeks, and rivers that feed into it. We want that water to be clean as we splash along the shoreline, kayak on the bay, or pitch a tent in camping areas.

1BoysInWater

I am a surfer. When I’m catching waves off places like Assateague Island in Maryland or Cape Fear in North Carolina I don’t want to get sick from pollution. Some of my surfing friends have had bad experiences in polluted waters because surfers spend more time in the water than regular beach goers, swimmers, and divers. Surfers know that even though the ocean is massive, the water along the coast can be impacted by pollution from rivers or bays, or runoff from city streets after a storm. Not cool.

2Surfing

I’m a dog owner. I have a chocolate lab who loves to jump in the water, whether it’s the heat of the summer or when there’s ice on the shoreline. Dogs can be vulnerable to certain pollutants also and they need to swim in clean water to protect their health. It’s awesome watching my sons delight in their dog charging in and out of the water, and then showering them as he shakes off.

3DogInWater

I’m a beer drinker. I enjoy sampling the amazing selection of microbrews produced in the U.S., from lagers and ales to porters and stouts. Beer is more than 90 percent water and brewers depend on a reliable supply of clean water to craft their products. But you don’t have to take my word for it – there is an alliance of brewers speaking out for clean water.

4Beer

So for all these reasons and more, I say that clean water rules.

My daily duties at my job have taught me so much about the protection of clean water. Despite the advanced knowledge gained at our agency, it still comes back to what I learned in elementary school – water flows downhill. We need clean water upstream to have clean water downstream. We can’t protect our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters if we don’t protect our streams and wetlands.

That’s why we’re finalizing the Clean Water Rule. Right now 60 percent of streams and millions of acres of wetlands aren’t clearly protected. We all live downstream and need that water to be clean.

People often ask me about the best thing they can do for clean water. I say to spread the word about how much it matters to you and your family and friends. Here is an easy way to do that:

  • Take a photo holding this #CleanWaterRules sign.
  • Post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #CleanWaterRules and give your reason why.
  • Encourage family and friends to do the same.

#CleanWaterRules

I look forward to seeing how many of you agree that clean water rules.

About the author: Travis Loop is the Communications Director for EPA’s Office of Water in Washington, D.C. He previously worked on Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts at EPA’s Annapolis office and covered environmental issues as a newspaper reporter and editor in North Carolina and Hawaii.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.