Handling a State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Inspection

EPA, DEP, or DEQ? 

If you’re a generator of hazardous waste, you probably know your Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) regulation. More often than not, you’re familiar with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) laws on your specific waste streams, your generator status, and your reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

But in most every state, there is another level of regulation and oversight. In most cases, the department which handles environmental standards and laws is either called the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The nomenclature is not identical for all fifty states (for instance, Connecticut’s version is called the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection), but the main functions of the office are usually, if not always similar to the EPA (and to other state agencies) in most of its actions and promulgations.

Although, some DEPs and DEQs may go further than the EPA and RCRA in its regulation, meaning it may set higher standards or enforce more stringent rules, while others might merely mirror the federal environmental agency.

State Inspections; Federal Law

And these departments do conduct inspections, in very much the same manner as the EPA visits unannounced with checklists, notepads, and testing materials. In fact, the EPA and state agencies may conduct site assessments together, in what is called a “joint oversight inspection.”

EPA and DEP inspection

And since these Departments of Environmental Protection are modeled on federal law, in most cases, they are looking for the same things. Violations are met with fines, hazardous waste management plans are issued, and special provisions are made.

Becoming Prepared 

So what should you expect from a DEP inspection? It’s possible for the visit to be of almost any duration, depending on whether it is a routine checkup of the facility or if it is an inspection convened in the wake of an alleged hazardous materials violation.

But in any case, you should be prepared for an EPA or DEP inspection. Here’s what an inspector may be paying attention to, testing for, or checking in your facility:

  • General walk-throughs of the facility,
  • Improper waste handling procedures,
  • Main and satellite accumulation areas,
  • Adequate aisle space,
  • Possible on-site sampling, or
  • Availability of emergency equipment.

In addition, an inspector may ask you to produce the following records, including,

  • Inspection records for hazardous waste storage areas,
  • Personnel training records,
  • Manifests,
  • Waste minimization plans,
  • Equipment testing and maintenance records,
  • Waste analysis records,
  • State annual or EPA biennial reports, or
  • Emergency contingency plans.

The more prepared you are for a DEP inspection, the better suited you will be to passing the inspection with flying colors. Preparedness may mean different things for different facilities, for industrial or manufacturing facilities, it might come in the form of mock inspections. For treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs), preparedness be more extensive and detailed employee training in hazardous waste handling courses.

To at least keep one step ahead of a state DEP inspector before an inspection takes place at your facility, use the steps listed above, and then, you’re are sure to get through without a hiccup.

If you are worried about a surprise an EPA or DEP inspection, give Hazardous Waste Experts a call today at 800-936-2311 more information on keeping compliant at all times. Or, if you prefer, click here to email us.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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