Volume 24, Number 10 September 7, 2016

EPA Makes Unannounced Site Visits

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made unannounced Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) inspections at several sites in Northern Virginia in June; staff from Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI) attended two of the visits, responding to a client request within an hour of EPA’s arrival.  The EPA was accompanied by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) staff along with EPA’s third party consultant, PG Environmental. Their inspections focused on Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) compliance, VPDES permit postings, and overall site condition compliance. 

What were the biggest issues?

The inspectors were most concerned with continuity between the plans and current site conditions, specifically modifications (redlines) reflecting field changes to erosion and sediment control and stormwater management BMPs.

In reviewing the SWPPPs, the inspectors considered these questions: 

  • Was the Pollution Prevention (P2) plan included and complete?
  • Was the Record of Land Disturbance accurate and kept up-to-date?
  • Were inspections thorough, complete, and representative of on-site conditions? and
  • Were site plans updated to reflect current site conditions?

WSSI compliance staff performing a VSMP site inspection, documenting concerns with Pollution Prevention practices at a local site

Deficiencies noted in the field were mostly related to P2 issues:

  • Inadequate concrete washout liners;
  • Hazardous and toxic chemicals (gas, hydraulic fluid, oils, epoxy, etc.) left in unprotected areas of the site;
  • Dried concrete piles sitting around foundation walls;
  • Paint cans discarded in dumpsters instead of proper receptacles;
  • Masonry components left out uncovered; and
  • Evidence of minor fuel spills on the ground at fueling stations.

EPA noted that at both sites WSSI visited, the site contractor’s self-inspections were generally of poor quality. Self-inspections can favor the project schedule and budget, delaying or ignoring necessary BMP maintenance. A good alternative is a third-party inspection – providing an unbiased, qualified, and experienced perspective on site compliance. Ultimately, projects that are kept in compliance will avoid the delays and project expenses that come with inadequate site stormwater management and violations.

What happens when a site is out of compliance?

Following each inspection, EPA sends an interim report to the contractor/developer, providing an opportunity for comments and documentation of corrective actions taken. EPA incorporates those items into the official report, which is usually completed four to six months later. EPA typically allows the contractor/developer time to address all of the documented violations. If violations of a serious nature are not remediated, the regulating agencies can issue stop work orders, require a consent decree, and assess civil fines and penalties (now $51,750 per day – see Field Notes article from August 2016).

What can I do to prepare?

The issues EPA raised during their visit are good predictors of focus points for future state and local inspections as well as environmental trends in the industry.

WSSI can help you ensure that your site will be compliance in the event that the EPA, DEQ or local authorities perform an unannounced inspection.  Contact Roy Van Houten, Jody Greene, Mike Wills, or Dylan Leygraaf with your questions and to schedule a site visit.

Check out past issues in the Field Notes Archive.


  • Bryce Miller

    Richmond, VA