In a major effort to protect human and environmental health, EPA works with its state, federal and tribal regulatory partners to monitor and ensure compliance with clean water laws and regulations. The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the principal federal law that governs water pollution.
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program of the CWA aims to regulate point sources that discharge pollutants into U.S. waters. Under the NPDES Program, compliance monitoring covers a scope of techniques, such as on-site compliance evaluation, Discharge Monitoring Report reviews, and providing assistance to enhance compliance with NPDES permits. The goal is to tackle the most significant issues and to actively encourage compliance among the regulated community. Information on how compliance inspections are conducted can be found in the NPDES Compliance Inspection Manual.
Under the NPDES Program, compliance monitoring mostly takes place at the state level. EPA has given authorization to all but four states to implement their own NPDES programs for controlling water pollution. EPA is responsible for overseeing authorized state programs and has direct implementation control for the unauthorized states (Idaho, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire) as well as federal facilities and in Indian Country.
The CWA NPDES Compliance Monitoring Strategy gives implementation guidance to EPA regions and authorized states by describing the inspection frequency goals of the EPA.
Any facility that discharges directly into waters of the United States are given NPDES permits. Industrial and municipal facilities are among the regulated entities.
The National Pretreatment Program is implemented by the EPA to ensure that industrial and commercial facilities (e.g., gas stations, food service establishments, dry cleaners) that regularly discharge to publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) do not release pollutants which pass through POTWs untreated or interfere with the wastewater treatment processes and sewage sludge use or disposal of a POTW. Pollutants including grease, oil, and metals, among others, may prevent POTWs from carrying out their function, which leads to the release of untreated or inadequately treated pollutants into waterways including lakes, streams, rivers, and others. As part of the National Pretreatment Program, EPA may authorize local POTWs and states to implement an approved pretreatment program.
EPA is responsible for inspecting and auditing POTWs to evaluate the efficacy of their pretreatment program. Designed as a thorough review of all facets of the POTW’s pretreatment program, the pretreatment audit addresses each item covered in a pretreatment inspection, but in better detail.
Pretreatment inspections involve:
- thorough review of the approved program, annual reports, previous inspection reports, NPDES compliance status, citizen complaints, pretreatment files
- hold an interview with officials knowledgeable of the program
- inspection of various industrial user operations, if appropriate
CWA Section 404
Section 404 of the CWA aims to regulate the placement of dredged or fill material into lakes, estuaries, wetlands, streams, rivers, and other bodies of water. The objective of Section 404 is to prevent and reduce losses to wetlands and other types of waters, and to compensate for unavoidable loss through mitigation and restoration.
This section is jointly implemented by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The Corps issues Section 404 permits and monitors compliance with the issued permits.
Both EPA and the Corps are in charge of conducting on-site investigations and enforcing unpermitted discharges under CWA Section 404. Outlined in a 1989 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the agencies is the joint implementation of the Section 404 enforcement program.