Whether organizational changes are the result of the construction of a new industrial facility or the acquisition of additional sites, ensuring preparedness, regulatory compliance, and employee safety requires a fundamental emergency management program with streamlined, compliant, coordinated, and exercised response plans.
An Iowa fertilizer company recently settled an $80,689 civil penalty for violation of the Clean Water Act during the construction of a new fertilizer plant. The Clean Water Act requires construction sites, such as the fertilizer plant, to establish controls to limit pollution from being discharged via stormwater into nearby waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 inspector who evaluated to plant identified violations that resulted in sediment-laden stormwater leaving the site and entering a tributary of the Mississippi River. Specific violations included:
- Failure to update or amend the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)
- Failure to perform adequate stormwater self-inspections
The EPA issues “General Permits” for stormwater discharges associated with industrial activity, under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program (as defined in 40 CFR 122.21 and 40 CFR 122.26). Runoff that contacts industrial materials can transport pollutants into nearby water sources. As a result, the development and implementation of a SWPPP is required in order to obtain a general permit.
The purpose of a SWPPP is to identify potential stormwater pollution sources and reduce the potential for pollutants reaching nearby waterways. Establishing procedures and controls is necessary to accomplish the following SWPPP objectives:
- Identify pollutants that may come in contact with stormwater.
- Establish measures to prevent pollutants from coming in contact with stormwater.
- Establish controls to reduce or eliminate the potential for release of contaminated storm water to the environment.
Annual site evaluations are also required by the general permit and must be conducted by a qualified or SWPPP trained personnel. Completed site compliance evaluation checklists must be retained for one year after expiration of the General Permit. Evaluations must include the following:
- Inspect storm water drainage areas for evidence of pollutants entering the drainage system.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (i.e. good housekeeping measures, preventive maintenance, spill prevention and response, etc.).
- Observe structural measures, sediment controls, and other stormwater best management practices to ensure proper operation.
- Revise the plan as necessary within two weeks of the inspection, and implement any necessary changes within 12 weeks of the inspection.
- Prepare a report summarizing inspection results and actions items, identifying the date of inspection and personnel who conducted the inspection.
- Sign the report and keep it with the plan.
- If the annual review does not identify any action items, it will certify that the facility is in compliance with the Permit.
Costly non-compliance fines, such as the $80,689 fine experienced by the fertilizer company, continually result from the lack of implemented, thorough, or effective regulatory compliance programs. An SWPPP and required site evaluations should be incorporated, as necessary, into a company’s enterprise-wide emergency management program. Companies must prioritize emergency management programs and regulatory components to ensure company preservation, operational sustainability, and financial optimization.
By systematically aligning emergency management programs and associated plans with corresponding regulations, companies can identify and amend deficiencies that may result in fines and potential government mandated operation shutdowns. An effective compliance management process that includes regularly scheduled plan audits can result in an efficient, integrated and optimized program. Companies that operate many facilities should consider utilizing web-based technology and a regulatory compliance tracking module to ensure enterprise-wide compliance on multiple government agency fronts.