Has your wastewater treatment plant been inspected recently by the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (ministry)? If not, here’s a brief summary of the role of compliance officers, why we inspect and what you can expect when inspected.
Discharges from wastewater treatment systems are authorized by a permit under the Environmental Management Act (Act), or registration under the Municipal Wastewater Regulation (Regulation). In a file at your wastewater facility, there should be a copy of either the permit or registration, along with plans, monitoring data and reports. You likely send in monitoring data and reports on a regular basis to the ministry. But what happens after you send it in and who looks at it?
Here’s where the compliance officer comes in. Compliance officers inspect to verify compliance with your permit or registration. This ensures that the requirements set to protect the environment and human health are being followed. Inspections may be carried out on site, where one of us arrives at your wastewater facility, or off site where data and reports are assessed as part of an office review.
Compliance promotion is a new role for compliance officers. This role aims to increase voluntary compliance through education, outreach and also to increase awareness of requirements. These activities include attending conferences and tradeshows, developing brochures, or providing training sessions. If you see our display booth at one of these events, please stop by, we would love to meet you.
How do we determine who to inspect?
Each year we review hundreds of wastewater facilities and inspect a number based on potential risk, geographic location or length of time since the last inspection. Recently, we’ve started industry wide audits to determine compliance with specific requirements. Inspections may also be in response to a complaint or in response to an incident.
How will I know if I’m being inspected?
A compliance officer will likely contact you in advance but sometimes we may arrive unannounced. Inspections are typically during regular business hours, but may be after hours in the event of a spill or other emergency. Office reviews of your wastewater facility’s monitoring data and reports may be done at any point in time with or without notice.
Who can I expect from the ministry?
A compliance officer is designated as an inspector under the Act and will lead the inspection. We may be accompanied by other ministry staff, Conservation Officers and/or any other party if necessary.
What will we be looking at?
On-site inspections may focus on the entire wastewater facility or just one or two specific areas. In an on-site inspection, the compliance officer will observe the wastewater facility, site operations and equipment. The compliance officer may ask questions, take notes and photographs and collect samples. The inspection could also include reviewing monitoring data, waste handling and disposal information, contingency plans, or other records and reports required by your permit or the Regulation.
On every inspection, the compliance officer will confirm that your wastewater facility is classified under the EOCP and that the operators are appropriately certified under the EOCP, as required by the Regulation or if stipulated in your permit.
How long will the inspection take?
The length of the inspection will vary. Site inspections of very large wastewater facilities may take a day while others may take only a few hours. Inspection reports will always be provided to you at a later date.
How is compliance measured?
Compliance is measured against the requirements set out in your permit or the Regulation. The wastewater facility/operation is assessed as either in or out of compliance with each individual requirement.
How will I receive the inspection results?
Soon after the inspection, the compliance officer will either email or hardcopy mail an inspection report outlining the inspection results. In addition, these reports may be made available online to the public in the near future.
One thing to remember is that the compliance officer’s goal is to help your facility be in compliance with the Act or Regulation. Below are a few tips to help you prepare for an inspection.
Tips to prepare for an inspection:
- Know your permit or regulatory requirements.
- If you have questions before, during or after the inspection – please ask.
- Designate a contact person at your facility for the compliance officer.
- Be honest and transparent to show your willingness to comply.
- Be aware of areas where waste accumulates and is stored.
- Have a site plan available.
- Organize your records and have them easily accessible.
- Conduct your own inspection – are you complying with your permit or regulatory requirements?
By J. Wilson, Compliance Officer, Regional Operations Branch, Environmental Protection Division, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
To view the full Operator Digest – click here.