More Effective Action by the Environmental Protection Agency Needed To Enforce Industrial Compliance With Water Pollution Control Discharge Permits

CED-78-182: Published: Oct 17, 1978. Publicly Released: Oct 17, 1978.

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In a comprehensive effort to clean up the nation's waterways, either the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or states with EPA-approved programs issue permits to both industrial and other source dischargers. These permits limit the amount of pollutants that may be discharged into waterways. After an industrial discharge permit is issued, EPA or the state is responsible for ensuring that dischargers comply with permit conditions.

A review of discharge reports filed by 165 agencies indicated: (1) widespread and frequent noncompliance with permit conditions; (2) frequent failure to submit industrial self-monitoring reports which could conceal additional violations; and (3) widespread failure to meet required discharge standards. Such noncompliance with permit conditions, including violations of toxic-substances limits, underlines the need for improved compliance monitoring. Although a strong enforcement program is necessary to promote compliance, EPA enforcement actions usually lack clout. Except for referring violators to the Justice Department or barring them from receiving federal contracts, grants, or loans, EPA cannot penalize the violator economically. Justice referrals, however, are time-consuming, complex, expensive, and the results are unpredictable. Since 1975, EPA has been able to bar violators from federal contracts, but this is not done often.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Administrator of EPA should: (1) define what constitutes a major industrial discharger and determine the cumulative effects of minor permittees' pollution; (2) increase its sampling inspection coverage; (3) provide priorities and guidance for identifying and resolving the most significant adjudicatory hearings; (4) make more effective use of existing enforcement mechanisms; (5) amend the agency's regulation to lower the amount of exempt contracts, loans, and grants; and (6) periodically evaluate the adequacy and timeliness of existing enforcement mechanisms and, if necessary, request that Congress provide EPA with the authority to administratively assess penalties against industrial permit violators.


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